How to Find a Will After Someone Dies

Many times when someone close to us dies, we might not have full disclosure as to whether or not they had prepared a will prior to their passing. Other times, the family of the deceased is well aware there is a will, but simply has no access to a copy. Traditionally, most people have an attorney write and keep their will, or choose to file it in a probate court. However, there are many cases in which the deceased may choose to write and keep the will themselves prior to their passing by filling out an online form. Regardless of your situation and how your loved one’s will has been filed or stored, continue reading to find out how you can find a will after someone has died. 

How Can You Find Out If There Was Even a Will?

When trying to find out if someone left will, the answer might be more obvious or transparent than you think. Nonetheless, in many cases finding out if someone left a will can take time and effort, including getting help from a professional. 

Options to consider when trying to find out if someone left a will:

1) Contact close family members or relatives

It’s not unusual for people to leave their will in the hands of someone in the family or close friend who can properly protect and store it until their passing. Make it a priority to ask those related to the deceased with an understanding of legal protocols. Most people prefer referring to those in the field whom they are closely connected to over hiring someone outside of the family or their friend’s group. 

2) Check their home

Look around the house, try safe boxes, usual storage places, under the bed mattress, and anywhere the deceased may have kept important paperwork and documents. Sometimes, this can also be an area outside of the home as their office or business if they had one. The deceased’s home or safe boxes should always be the first place to try when looking for a copy of someone’s will.

3) Contact state planning attorney

Get in contact with any state planning attorney the deceased might have had during their life. It’s entirely appropriate and acceptable to call a loved one attorney’s to ask if there is a will and if your name is mentioned in it. The attorney might not be able to disclose specific details until all beneficiaries are present, but you can certainly be informed as to whether there is a will or not. 

4) Check the probate court docket

Once you have tried contacting any family member or friend that may be able to help and searched the deceased’s home and any safe boxes without success, then you can try checking the probate court docket to find out if there is a will. However, this option will only work if the deceased filed his or her testament for probate, and only then can it also be granted access to the public. 

It’s important to consider this as a last resort since most people choose not to deposit their wills with the court prior to death. Also, anyone in the custody of the will must deposit it to the local court within 10 days of the deceased’s death. Therefore, perhaps waiting a few days before searching the court docket might be a good idea. And if you are an interested party and those in charge of the will want to deny you access to it, you can always consult with a law expert to force a probate court production of the testament. 

Are All Wills Public Record?

Many people get confused when trying to search for a will following a public record approach. However, as we briefly covered above, a will is only of public record when it has been filed for probate. This means that a will is never public record until the death has occurred. Of course, this is unless a pre-death filing of a will has occurred. Nonetheless, public record does not signify that the whole world can see or have access to the will right away. It requires a certain process and specific guidelines we will be covering below. 

How to Find a Will Filed for Probate

Most people file their will with their local courts or a location in which they owned real estate. It’s always the best idea to start with these records. The process is usually easier if you have access to the probate court file number, which can be obtained from the will executor or keeper, but this is not a problem if you don’t. Once you search the court docket and confirm that indeed a will was filed, you can easily request a copy by:

  • Appearing in person and asking for a copy.
  • Making a written request or letter

If you couldn’t find any information online related to the will, you can always go to the courthouse or call and ask one of the probate clerks to help you find it. Once you have access to it, whether in person or through a written request, you’ll likely need to pay a fee for the copy. 

How Much Does It Cost to Get a Copy of a Will?

It usually costs around 0.50 cents to acquire a copy of a will. Don’t forget that you can only get a copy of any will until after the person has passed, and if they’re still alive, you’ll need their permission in order to get a copy. Also, keep in mind that only the original copy of the will is valid. There are obviously exceptions to this, like in the event that the original copy is destroyed by water or fire damage, etc. In cases like this, a copy may be admissible in court.

Final Thoughts

Finding a will is not always a straightforward or simple process, but with the proper help and due diligence, finding the copy of a will after someone has died remains a practical and attainable task. Ultimately, first searching the disease’s home or belongings is a good place to start.

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