It’s actually legal to steal someone’s trash once it’s out at the curb (at least in California). Many celebrities have sued paparazzi (unsuccessfully)for going through their trash–police do it to for a suspect when they don’t have enough to get a warrant yet.
That said, it could get ugly as the step father sounds like a royal douchebag.
To answer the direct question - yes, the insurance company will deal directly with the policy beneficiary(ies). The issue is getting information of the death to the insurance company (insco, for short). If you know which insco, a phone call will get things started and they will walk your husband through their process. You will need a certified copy of the death certificate unless the insco got one on their own (unlikely). The insco will likely figure out eventually that their insured died and start the process, but it is going to be much quicker if you find and contact them.
The insco will also inform your husband if he is not the beneficiary. If he is not they probably won’t be able to disclose who is, however. If you don’t know which insco, the locator company is an option (disclaimer, I have never dealt with one but it sounds like a good idea).
In most states, a will entered into probate is a public document. Anyone can read it.
Unless this hand written thing meets the legal definition of a will in your state, and is dated after the other will already admitted to probate, it’s just a letter from the deceased and isn’t binding on anyone.
No. When my uncle died, my sister phoned the lawyher whose letterhead was on the envelope. The lawyer said “we don’t keep copies of things like that”.
However, in Canada, at least in Quebec, there is a provincial department those only function is to keep registered copies of wills, which is pretty much automatic unless it is holographic. There may be some US states that do the same, I don’t know.
States also vary somewhat in how they interpret “natural heirs” and what share a descendent is entitled to unless specified otherwise.
My BIL died without a will. He had been married 3 times and had 3 kids by the first wife ( young adults). The third wife walked off with everything. He had a 40acre place that shared a boundary with our land. We wanted to buy from her after the dust settled and she being the bitch she is wouldn’t even discuss it with us. We certainly knew the value of the land and timber, it wasn’t like we wanted anything for free. It’s amazing how stupid people get over inheritance. Anyway we waited til she had to sell the land to a timber company for just the price of the trees. She got seriously cheated and we bought it for a song from that company. The timber that was old enough had been harvested, that’s okay we have time to watch it grow some more and plant a better pine species.
An addendum letter is not a great idea, as we found when my mother died. Her will had a provision saying that personal items were described in a separate letter and the remainder of the household contents were to be distributed as agreed upon.
She had listed a number of items she wished to go to specific kids, and brother #2 (who is a lawyer, and an asshole even apart from the lawyerhood) pitched a tantrum because a couple of specific items (jewelry) were mentioned as going to me and to my brother’s daughter. He threatened to drag everything to court because he felt shortchanged.
If the will said specifically “I made a list” then you might have grounds for demanding it but it might not be enforced.
As far as the insurance: Yes, that goes to the named beneficiaries - but you don’t know the insurance company or whether the policy was even still in force. I doubt the insurance company would be proactive in tracking down the beneficiaries even if they received some notice through public records; it’s in their interest to delay the payout anyway.
Did the deceased have any IRA accounts? If so, thse are also distributed to whomever was named as the beneficiary. If no beneficiary was named, I believe they’re paid to the estate (which means stepfather would get the funds). 401(k) and similar may have to go to the spouse unless the spouse agrees to have it go elsewhwere.