What to Do if a Family Member Won’t Let You See the Will or the Trust

Losing a loved one is undoubtedly a challenging time filled with emotional turmoil and practical arrangements. One critical aspect that arises during this period is the handling of the deceased’s Will or Trust.

However, a family member hiding the decedent’s Will or Trust from you can reasonably lead to confusion, suspicion and potential legal issues.

If you find yourself in the situation where a family member won’t let you see the Will or Trust, regardless of whether they are a parent, sibling or stepparent, it’s important to approach the matter with care and in consideration of the respective rights and duties of nominated executors and trustees. Understandably, emotions may be running high, but maintaining a level head is crucial in resolving the situation effectively.

Getting Access to Documents

Communication is often the first step in resolving disputes, and this applies to the matter of accessing a will as well. However, if a family member won’t let you see the Will or Trust this can be difficult for you both and lead to litigation. So, in an effort to minimize difficulties, when initiating a conversation, express your concerns about the undisclosed or missing Will or Trust in a calm and respectful manner. Making accusations or confrontation will likely escalate the situation further.

If you are successful in obtaining the Will or Trust, review them carefully to determine whether there are missing documents.

One duty of a nominated Executor who has accepted that position will be to lodge the original Will with the Superior Court.  Likewise, a nominated Successor Trustee must give notice to all of the intestate heirs (related parties who would inherit if there is no Will) and to all of the beneficiaries of the Trust.

If the family member with custody of the documents remains adamant about withholding the Will or Trust, despite your attempts at communication, their behavior gives rise to a reasonable sign of suspicion. Carefully note any unusual or secretive actions that may indicate underlying motives for keeping the Will or Trust hidden.

The Will or Trust will provide the truth of the decedent’s intent which must be followed in probating the Will or administering the Trust as a Successor Trustee.  Your motivation and the motivation of the person hiding the Will or Trust should be to honor the decedent’s wishes and fairly carry them out.

When It’s Time to Take Action

If your attempts to access the Will or Trust directly from the person with custody of the documents fails, it may be time to consider legal action. The importance of seeing the Will or Trust cannot be overstated, particularly concerning matters of inheritance and your trust of the person designated to serve as Executor or Successor Trustee

Consulting a trust dispute attorney in Los Angeles and Orange County or a legal professional specializing in estate matters can provide clarity and guidance in navigating the legal complexities of the situation. These experts can assess the circumstances surrounding the will’s concealment and advocate for your rights to access the document.

In cases where there’s suspicion of foul play or undue influence, legal intervention becomes even more critical. By seeking appropriate legal counsel, you can ensure that the decedent’s final wishes are carried out and that their legacy is honored in accordance with their intentions.

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