This is a personal matter, and frankly, I'm hesitant to discuss it in public. But I can't afford a lawyer, and I'm not sure where to turn next in my research. There's nothing for it but to state my conundrum and hope that someone out there can help. In the past, my readers have been kind enough to give me very intelligent advice on various topics.
For various (good) reasons, I'm giving the stripped-down version of a situation that is somewhat more complex. Here it is:
My "stepfather" -- who was a well-known figure in his corner of what we may broadly call the performing arts -- died about ten months ago. He left behind a somewhat substantial estate. He and I did not always get along, to put it mildly.
Today I learned that his affairs have remained in limbo throughout the past year because -- in all this time and after much searching -- no-one can find the original of his will from the year 2000. A lawyer has a copy.
(I put "stepfather" in quotes because he and my mom led everyone to believe that they were married, even though I later learned that they never actually tied the knot. Back in the 1960s and '70s, people told white lies to please a judgmental older generation.)
My brother recently went through a box of old family stuff -- including a few dorky high school photos of yours truly -- and found an earlier holographic will from 1979. "Holographic" means handwritten. In this will, the "stepfather" left everything to my mother. She died in 1981; my brother and I are her sole heirs.
The 2000 will (in which, it seems, the beneficiary is his surprisingly young then-current girlfriend
) is not holographic. However, only a photographic copy exists; a lawyer has it. The 1979 will is
an entirely handwritten original. It is dated and witnessed by individuals whom I believe to be still alive.
The "stepfather" never married anyone in his life and has absolutely NO living blood relatives.
If my brother and I mount a challenge to the 2000 will, do we stand a snowball's chance in hell?
This all took place in my old home state of California, natch.
I'll reveal the name of my "stepfather" one of these days, once this is all sorted out. Amusing stories will be told.
Any help you can give me will be very much appreciated.