This is a long and complicated story, so I’ll save you the dirty details and just stick relevant information… My husband’s mother just recently passed away about 6 weeks ago, leaving himself (her ONLY child) her husband (my husband’s step father) and our 3 kids as her ONLY family. Not even 48 hours after her death my husband’s step father had moved in a young lady in my husband’s mothers home and refused to have anything to do with him and our kids. Before her death, his mother told him he was a beneficiary to her life insurance but he didn’t ask details because he wasn’t comfortable talking about money at the end of her life. We can’t ask his step father any questions, so we don’t know what to do. That brings me to my question… Do life insurance companies notify you if you’re a beneficiary? We have no way of know what insurance company, what his step father has done to claim money because I’m positive he’s entitled to insurance money also, we don’t even have a way of knowing or ask8ng if he really was beneficiary at all. Could use some advice. TIA
Yes you can ask the stepfather questions. These are appropriate questions to ask at the death of a family member. Did you mother-in-law leave a will? Is you husband aware if there was a will? If there was a will, there should be an executor, that would handle these types of things. These are very important questions that all children should know of their parents before they pass.
At the minimum, your husband should have a discussion with his stepdad, to say, that mom had indicated that he was a beneficiary on her life insurance policy. Normally an insurance company will attempt to find the beneficiaries, but your MIL may have not provided your husbands contact info.
Legal questions are best suited to IMHO.
General Questions Moderator
If he’s being deliberately obstructive, this is exactly what lawyers are for. If there’s a will, it’s likely registered somewhere, and a lawyer could find it. Otherwise, they could have the courts compel the stepdad to provide details of any insurance payouts.
It won’t be pleasant, but if he’s already cut off contact with you, why should you care about pissing him off?
Life insurance policies are normally separate from the will. The money goes to whoever is listed as the beneficiary on the policy, what the will says doesn’t matter.
OTOH, her estate needs to be probated, an executor other than the stepfather will be in charge of this. While not officially in charge of finding out about the insurance policy, the executor should be aware of the policy and who the company is.
If all else fails, the insurance company itself will eventually find out about the death and ~track down the beneficiary.
Note that other Bad Things could have happened. E.g., the stepfather forged a change of the beneficiary on the policy, etc. In which case: get a a lawyer.
Wait, what? Really?
I have a will, and my sisters know where it is. It’s duly signed as witnesses by people we know, as recommended by lawyers. But it’s not “registered” anywhere officially. Is that needed? I didn’t even know it was an option.
I don’t think it’s mandatory anywhere, it’s just something you have the option to do in some states…
And, in general, I don’t think a lawyer can necessarily track down a will, although presumably if somebody has died and it’s in probate that could be tracked down, that’s probably what Horatius means.
Thank you for the responses.
His step father will have no communication with us. He’s threatened to press harassment charges if we call or come to my husband’s mothers home. He is the executor of her will, any other information we have no way of knowing or asking. We didn’t know his step father would do this, so my husband didn’t have conversations about inheritance with his mother prior to her passing and he wouldn’t have known about it at all had she not told him to expect it. We’re just at a complete loss as to what do. If his step father has notified the life insurance company that she had passed away, would they seek out the beneficiaries if there are any besides him or would they wait to be contacted by the beneficiaries?
I feel the need to say that his only concern isn’t money. He’s asked for his family photos, childhood pictures of himself and his mother. But his step father has refused every single attempt at a conversation.
IMO you need a lawyer.
Yes, you need a lawyer, urgently. Even if your concerns are not primarily financial, consider the probability that the stepfather might trash items of great sentimental value through spite. Applying financial leverage might be the only practical way to get back photos etc.
As the executor of the will, his threats of “harassment charges” if you call him are utter bullshit. He has a duty to respond to requests for information from the heirs. But at this point, you are probably best off getting a lawyer.
How do you know that the OP’s husband is an heir?
To clarify, her will has already been entered into probate. Naming her husband, as executor and the sole heir, though there is a hand written will she made detailing what items she wanted to go where and other personal last wishes. We’ve resigned ourselves to never knowing what the document details as he won’t show it to anyone but his his now girlfriend, who he swears is named in the will and was directed to “to care of her”. However, that’s besides the point and we have no power to force to see that document and if compelled I’m almost certain he would insist that document doesn’t exist, so we have move on from that unfortunately. So the only real knowledge we have from her directly is that he was a beneficiary to her life insurance but even that, we have no way of verifying. That’s why I ask if the insurance company contacts the beneficiaries because if they don’t we have no real way of knowing one way or the other.
I thought she said that her mother had told him that, but I see from the OP itself, and her later post, that he’s not an heir. So my mistake.
If there’s another actual will, newer, then it supercedes the original… followed by arguments over whether it’s valid with or without witness signatures. if it’s just a wish list of who gets what, then it’s just that - a wish list. AFAIK, IANAL, there is no legal force to it.
However, these details are what lawyers are good for, including getting to see any will and/or amendments and determining validity.
There may be provisions in your state that prohibit disinheriting children without specifically stating so “To my son Mr. Kate I leave nothing.”… Maybe if the stepfather failed to include the addendum letter he invalidates the process… maybe the way the letter is written it has force of law… Maybe the lawyer can determine life insurance and who is beneficiary and what is the history? (Maybe the beneficiary documentation will show that he forged a beneficiary change.who knows???) Can’t hurt to spend a few hundred to consult a lawyer.
Sorry for the loss.
I’m also sorry you and your family have to go through this. As others have suggested, hire an attorney. Call the local Bar Association and ask for a recommendation for an attorney who has a practice in family law. An attorney might also have a resource to contact life insurance companies to see if there is a policy in her name, and what the details of the policy are. Don’t go at this alone, get an attorney. Talk with more than one till you find one you are comfortable dealing with. Most importantly, you want one who can answer your questions in a way you feel comfortable. Anyone that doesn’t communicate well with you, keep looking for an attorney that’s a better match.
I would start with a life insurance policy locator service.
You can also hire a private investigator to go through step dad’s trash (or do it yourself) to look for information & also to intercept photos or other sentimental things that he or his girlfriend throw out.
As many others have said, the sole thing you need to do now is see a lawyer in the state where your mother died.
Sorry for your loss. And sorry for the possibility/likelihood that your husband may get screwed out of $ AND memories. Far too often folk act like jerks re: inheritance. There are no shortage of such stories around here.
One thing that I feel doesn’t get mentioned enough, tho, if things are unclear after a relatives death, the fault does not all lie with the survivor. Your husband’s mom deserves a good share of the blame for allowing her estate to be styled in such a manner. The lesson is for each of US to not act similarly to OUR family.
If OP does this, they might run the risk of trespassing on the property of one who has already insisted they stay away.
A PI would probably be run off the grounds on general principle (“Get out of my trashcan!”) and if they identified themselves as working for OP, the harassment complaint threat comes into force.
I don’t think this situation is at all amenable to “self-help”, if the stepfather really holds all the legal cards.