Dear Penny: My Sister Won’t Let Me See Mom’s Will. What Do I Do?

Two siblings have their backs toward each other to represent friction in their relationship.
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Dear Penny,

My sister, the executor of our mother's will, refuses to allow me to see a copy of the will. I have checked the counties around here through their probate offices and no one has it. What do I do?

— In the Dark

Dear In the Dark,

While inheritance is obviously a financial concern, the details around it are handled in the legal sphere. This question gets into your legal rights around the will that go beyond my expertise, so I reached out to Kimberly A. Hegwood, owner and managing attorney at Your Legacy Legal Care, a Texas-based estate planning and probate law firm.

Hedgwood explained a will won’t be in the public record until it’s gone through the probate process, a legal review. Probate is a court proceeding, so everything submitted in that process, including the will, is part of a public record anyone can view.

Because your mother’s will isn’t public record yet, Hegwood says instead you can file a request called a Motion to Present the Will to require your sister to show it to you.

She adds: “The executor of someone’s estate must act within the best interest of not only the estate of the deceased, but the beneficiaries as well.”

That means, if you’re listed as a beneficiary in the will, your sister as the executor is required to ensure you receive your inheritance.

There’s also the possibility that there is no will. If you’re not sure a will exists, Hegwood says, you could probate without one after your mother’s death. This would involve a court proceeding where an administrator is assigned to oversee the estate and distribute assets based on your state’s laws and any of your mother’s wishes you can provide evidence for.

Dana Miranda is a Certified Educator in Personal Finance®, author, speaker and personal finance journalist. She writes Healthy Rich, a newsletter about how capitalism impacts the ways we think, teach and talk about money.