Phoenix, AZ asked in Real Estate Law and Probate for Arizona

Q: How do I find out if my stepfather had a will?

My stepfather has been dead since 1977. My Mother died in 2016. She willed her home to me. I am trying to sell the home and now the court wants proof that my stepfather no longer owns half of the property? What do I do? I need a will to prove he left it to my Mother but do not know how to find it.

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1 Lawyer Answer
Peter H. Westby
Peter H. Westby
  • Probate Lawyer
  • Scottsdale, AZ
  • Licensed in Arizona

A: From the facts you provided, I am assuming that your mom and stepfather held title to their home as tenants in common. To find a will, I have seen ads run in legal periodicals inquiring about a will for deceased individuals. You can also check with the Superior Court in the county where your stepfather resided at the time of his death to locate a probate file. If he had a will and if there was a probate, the will would be in the probate file. But this is unlikely. It is very common that there is no probate when the first of a married couple dies.

Arizona law may be of help. If there is no will, Arizona law provides that your stepfather's estate would pass to his spouse provided he had no children by another relationship. A probate or, perhaps, a small estate affidavit could be used to transfer his interest in the home to your mom's estate. If your stepfather did have children by another relationship, you would probably need to probate his estate and this matter would be much more complicated. None of this is something that I recommend you tackle on your own. I strongly recommend hiring a probate attorney to assist you.

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