Where there’s a Will, there’s a way…to find out if it exists.
Surprisingly, many people don’t let the people closest to them know where they keep one of the most important documents in their lives, their Last Will and Testament. Over the years, we’ve heard many stories of family members and friends having to search high and low for a deceased’s Will. It can be overwhelming, especially during the grieving process.
If you’re trying to figure out whether someone has a Will, follow these six steps.
1. Reach out and ask
The obvious first step is to ask the deceased’s family, friends, and the executor (the person in charge of gathering the deceased’s property and distributing it) if they know where the Will is stored. Yes, these conversations can be uncomfortable to have, but they’re necessary.
Take note that whoever finds the Will must then take to the relevant Probate court within a certain amount of time, depending on the jurisdiction. It’s the executor’s duty to contact the people named in the Will after the person dies and to make the contents of the Will known. Contrary to popular belief, Wills aren’t private documents, they’re public.
2. Do a thorough search
If, after the first step, you still don’t know if the person had a Will, remember that Wills aren’t usually kept in obvious places. They’re usually hidden in a file. Keep that in mind when searching for it in the deceased’s home. Don’t just look in bedrooms and home offices, look everywhere. For example, boxes, inside the pantry, storage rooms, secret drawers, under the floorboards, in the attic, and old suitcases and storage spaces. You may also want to do things like search contact books, diaries, and online accounts to find any relevant information that might lead you to the Will.
3. The lawyer always knows
You may be asking yourself how to find the lawyer that wrote a Will? You can search checkbooks and payments made by the deceased to see if any payments to a lawyer were recorded. You could also place a notice in a legal newspaper or county bar association publication with the relevant info about the deceased.
The lawyer who was retained by the deceased to write the Will should know where the original version is stored. At the very least, they’ll have a copy, so you can ask them for it. They may not tell you what’s in the Will because legal advisors don’t usually reveal such details, but they’ll tell you whether or not there was one.
4. Bank on the bank
Contact the deceased’s various banks and ask if the deceased has a safe deposit box. It’s a popular place to store an original Will, duplicates, or other important info.
5. Go public
If all else fails, there’s a small chance the Will you’re looking for is already in the public record. Sometimes, the executor starts the Probate procedure without telling all of the necessary parties. Procedure-wise, a court clerk files Wills after a person dies (though some states allow for pre-death filing). But you should know that Wills aren’t always in the public record.
6. If all else fails…
If you still can’t find the Will anywhere, including in the public record, there are still a few steps you can take:
- Go the court website. Regularly check in on the relevant court website for new Will filings and newly opened Probates.
- Let the Probate court know that you want to be notified. In some states, you can file a request with the Probate court asking to be notified if Probate is opened in the name of the deceased.
LegalShield Can Help
Don’t put your family and friends in the position of having to track down your Will. And when it comes to issues that require an estate planning lawyer, like drafting a Will and planning for your family’s future, don’t feel like you’re alone. Getting professional legal help is recommended.
LegalShield offers memberships for less than $1 a day, which means that you get unlimited legal help for a tiny fraction of what such premium services usually cost. LegalShield has hundreds of Will and Estate specialist lawyers who can help you draft a Living Will or a Last Will and Testament. We’re here to give you all the legal advice you need, so reach out today. We’d love to hear from you.
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