Q: Hello, My wife's mother passed away a week ago. My wife has been estranged from her family for several years.
We are unsure if there is a will. How do we find out if there is one? My wife's sister is currently living in the house my mother in-law owned. There is life insurance policies, bank accounts and other assets. If there is no will and we are not on speaking terms with her sister, how do we go about find out what my wife is legally entitled too. If there is a hand written will is that legal? I have read that there is a time frame for filing a hand written will with the court, is that true? What is the time period for that?
John, I'm sorry to hear what you're all going through.
In Illinois, wills are required to be signed and witnessed by two people. If there is a will, all wills need to be filed in the county in which the Decedent resided within 30 days of death. If there is a valid will, and it names your wife to receive assets, the only assets your wife would be entitled to receive would be those that pass through probate (not joint assets, assets that name a beneficiary, or assets held in trust). If there isn't a will, the assets will pass through probate, where your wife may be entitled to receive them (if your mother-in-law wasn't married, her assets would be split equally among her children).
It would make sense for your wife to consider hiring an attorney to represent her as an heir of the estate to be able to dig into these matters thoroughly.
I wish you the best of luck, and please let me know if there's anything else you need.
*This information does not constitute legal advice, and we do not have an attorney/client relationship absent a signed engagement agreement.
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