Thursday, December 16, 2010

Why Were the Grandchildren Sent Notice?

I posted part of this question to a genealogy mailing list in hopes of getting an answer, but I'll also post my thoughts and comments here.

I'm writing up a 1903 "Order Probating Will" for Barbara Haase of Warsaw, Illinois. We've seen Barbara before in Casefile Clues, but have not taken a look at her estate file in too much detail. The order confuses me and I'm not certain if I should write up what I have and know for an article or wait for an answer which I may never get.

The notice regarding probate of will is sent to the heirs and legatees of Barbara. That's to be expected in this location and in this time period. The heirs include Barbara's surviving children and the children of Francis Trautvetter who died before Barbara. In this case the legatees are all heirs--other than a few spelling and name variances.

What confuses me is why the children of another daughter are also included in the notice regarding probate. This daughter is not deceased, apparently of sound mind (money is disbursed to her directly and not to someone on her behalf), and lives in the area. Three other surviving children of Barbara had children of their own and their children are not served notice. The children of the surviving daughter are not mentioned in Barbara's will. The only grandchildren Barbara mentions in her will are those who are the children of her pre-deceased daughter Frances.

The probate packet includes references to these grandchildren (children of the surviving daughter) being sent several notices (along with the other heirs and legatees), but makes no reference as to why. These children (of the surviving daughter), are not mentioned anywhere else in the probate, received no money, made no claims, no appearances in court, etc. Some of the children of the surviving daughter are minors and a guardian ad litem is appointed for them (and for the minor children of the deceased daughter as well).

One potential item to consider is that the husband of the surviving daughter (the one whose chidlren are mentioned) is deceased.  The husband of the other surviving daughter  (whose children are not mentioned) is alive. The husband of the pre-deceased daughter is also alive, but is not mentioned anywhere in the estate records either.

I think I'm going to write up what I know for the next issue and do a follow up as necessary. Sometimes we never do get all the answers, but it's good to note when something is unusual.

Stay tuned--subscribe now and get in on the discovery.


  1. Michael,

    This is an interesting and complicated problem. Here is my analysis of it:

    1) The law of the state most likely required that the notice name all of the heirs of the testator. When Barbara Haase died, the heirs were the surviving children and the issue of her deceased daughter. Not the husbands of the surviving daughters, nor the surviving husband of the deceased daughter. The children of the surviving daughters are also heirs, and the ones with a deceased father were named because they had a guardian ad litem to protect their interests (in case their mother married again).

    2) The children of the deceased daughter, Frances, were identified individually because they would be receiving a defined share of the estate in the distribution, and their combined shares was likely to be equal to that of each of the surviving children if there was no specific inheritance defined. The surviving husband of Frances was not named because he was not an heir. It's possible that these children also had a guardian ad litem named after the notice was posted to protect the interests of the children.

    My 2 cents! Cheers -- Randy

  2. Randy-

    Here's a few quick thoughts.

    Whether the husband had an interest or not depends upon the time and location. In some cases, the husband would have a curtesy interest in property his wife inherited. That's probably not what's going on here given the time period.

    Had Barbara died intestate, Frances' children would have received her distributive share, split equally. Her will bequeathed all her property and there was nothing left over. They still had an interest in the will as if the will was denied then would have had a share to split. They were mentioned in the will as legatees and what they got in the will was actually more than they would have gotten if the will had been denied and they had split their mother's share.

    The guardian ad litem for the minors was appointed to protect their interests in the case of their grandmother's estate.

    What I'm trying to figure out is why children of a surviving daughter who were not mentioned in the will were given notice when other children of surviving children were not. I may never get an answer to that.