Q: My brother passed away on Sunday. He left a handwritten, holographic will that was signed and dated.
He was also a lawyer so I’m not to worried about the validity of his will. My mother is making it seem that because she is next of kin that everything goes through her. But he wanted her to have nothing. It says it in the will. An executor was named. He left everything to me and my brother. My question is where do we go from here? Will my mom be able to take the things and the money he left us as next of kin?
A: Sorry for your loss. Your question is posted in the California law section, and this answer only applies in California. Whoever has the will must "lodge" it with the Superior Court in the county where your brother was a resident at the time of his death. Consult with a probate attorney, as the most likely next step will be to file a probate action, and the executor will be appointed by the court. The court will ultimately order the distribution of the estate in accordance with the will, so your mom will not get anything. If there is a concern she may try to steal things now, an emergency temporary appointment may be requested, so the executor can take charge right away.
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The answer to your question depends on the dollar value of your brother's assets (excluding some things like his retirement and personal vehicle.) If your brother lived in California and had assets valued at $184,500 or more, then your family likely has to go through a 1- 2 year court process called probate BEFORE anyone can inherit anything. If your brother owned real estate, it's very likely your family will have to go through probate because it is hard to find real estate in California that costs less than $184,500! There are many steps to the probate process. Every penny of your brother's must be counted so, if he had change on the top of his dresser, that needs to be counted. It is quite a tedious process, unfortunately. People often try to handle it themselves, then get frustrated and hire a lawyer to handle it for them. One of the many issues addressed in probate is whether the Will is valid, which a judge will decide. If the judge decides the Will is valid, then whoever your brother named in the Will will receive his assets.
On the other hand, if your brother's total probatable assets are valued at less than $184,500, you may be able to get away with a much shorter process if the person named as the executor is willing to sign a document under penalty of perjury declaring the value. There are notices that must go out by law and other tasks required by law, so it would be wise to hire a lawyer for assistance. All the best to you!
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