Q: Will OK county probate judges look at intent, or stick to the letter of the law?
My 82 year-old stepdad just passed, and though he and my mom (married 32 years) had a typed doc stating that in the event of either’s death, everything would go to the other, in the event of both of their deaths, everything would go to me, the document wouldn’t qualify as a will since there are no witness signatures and it’s not notarized. Unfortunately, the house title is in his name only, probably out of ignorance, even though the now paid off mortgage for the property was in both of their names. He has several sons from previous relationships, only 1 of whom has been involved in his life, and that only recently. Is my mom basically out of luck, as the law states that his sons would inherit half of the probate property? Could it matter that they moved to OK from TX, a community property state, and the mortgage was paid off after they sold their TX property with community property assets? Would an OK County probate judge look at these types of things, or is it letter of the law?
A: I am sorry for your loss. Since the property is in your stepdad's name only, there will have to be probate of the estate. You should contact a probate attorney as soon as possible to discuss all of the facts so they can give your mother appropriate advice. Your mother may have homestead rights in the property. The relationship or lack thereof of the father and sons makes no difference in the son's right to inheritance. The issue of the payment of the mortgage by community property proceeds is complicated and cannot be determined without a thorough examination of the facts. Unfortunately, this is a situation that would have been easily and cheaply resolved prior to death had your stepfather consulted with an estate planning attorney, but now will most likely be more stressful and expensive for the heirs. Don't give up hope. Although you can't count on it, sometimes we have seen heirs will do the "right thing" and give up their interest in favor of the long time spouse. Contact an attorney sooner rather than later. Good luck.
Charles Watts agrees with this answer
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