The first step to find a will is to determine where the individual may have created their will. This could be a state, province, or country. Here are several recommendations on where and how to begin to locate a missing last will and testament of a loved one.
First Step to Find a Will: Gather Information
Collect as much information as possible about the individual whose will you are searching for, including their full legal name, date of birth, and date of death. Also, try to gather information about any family members or heirs of the deceased.
Search Will Registries to Find a Will
The U.S. Will Registry is a service that allows individuals to register the location of their wills for safekeeping and easy retrieval by their loved ones after they pass away. The registry is a secure database that is maintained by the National Will Registry. The registry, established in 1996, specializes in safekeeping and tracking legal documents.
To use the U.S. Will Registry, an individual can register their will by providing basic information such as their name, date of birth, and contact information, as well as the location of their will. This information is stored securely in the registry’s database. The registration is later accessible only by authorized individuals listed as being authorized. This could be the attorney who created the will, loved ones, or the executor of the estate.
Check with Lawyers or Law Firms
Lawyers or law firms that the deceased person used may have a copy of the will or know where it is located. Reach out to any legal professionals who the person worked with during their lifetime.
Search with the Executor or Administrator
The executor or administrator of the deceased’s estate may have a copy of the will or know where it is located. If you know who this person is, contact them and ask if they have any information about the will.
Check with Family Members
If you know any family members or close friends of the deceased, they may have knowledge of where it’s located. Reach out to any relevant individuals and ask if they have any information.
Look in Places in Home or Office or Safe Deposit Box
The will may also be located in the deceased person’s home or office. Check any safe or other secure storage locations that the person may have used. If they had a safe deposit box, check with the bank to see if they have a will stored there.
Hire a Professional
There are professional services that specialize in locating lost last wills and testaments. These services are typically offered by private investigators or companies that specialize in estate planning or probate law. Here are some examples of professional services that can help you locate a lost will:
- Probate Researchers – These are professionals who specialize in locating missing heirs and beneficiaries, but they can also assist with finding lost wills. They have access to a variety of resources, including public records and databases, and can help track down wills that may be difficult to find.
- Estate Planning Attorneys – Attorneys who specialize in estate planning may also offer services to help locate missing wills. They have expertise in probate law and may have experience with situations where a will is lost or missing.
- Private Investigators – Private investigators may also offer services to locate lost wills. They can use a variety of techniques, such as searching public records, conducting interviews, and performing surveillance to locate the will.
- Will and Trust Registries – There are also private companies that offer will and trust registry services. These companies provide a secure database where individuals can store information about their wills and trusts. In the event that the will is lost or missing, the registry can help locate it.
The Probate Period: When does it start and end?
The probate period is the time during which the estate of a deceased person is settled. This includes the distribution of assets to beneficiaries and the payment of debts and taxes. The length of the probate period can vary depending on the jurisdiction and complexity of the estate.
To determine when the probate period ends, you should consult with a local attorney. Estate attorneys who handle probate cases are familiar with the probate laws in the district where the deceased person resided. In general, the court overseeing the probate process ends the probate period by issuing a final order that closes the estate. This typically occurs after all debts, taxes, and other obligations have been paid. Once they are completed, the remaining assets will begin to be distributed to the beneficiaries.
If you are searching for a will, it is important to find it before the probate period ends. This is because the will is needed to initiate the probate process. If the will is discovered after the probate period has ended, it may be difficult or impossible to have it recognized by the court.
Therefore, if you suspect that a deceased individual has a will, it is important to act quickly to locate it. It is also important to begin the probate process before the deadline.
What happens when you can’t find a will?
If a last will and testament cannot be found, the estate of the deceased person will generally be distributed according to the laws of intestacy. These are the default rules that apply when someone dies without a will. The rules of intestacy vary depending on the jurisdiction. In general, the laws of intestacy provide that the deceased person’s surviving spouse, children, and other close relatives will inherit the estate.
If the deceased person’s estate is subject to probate, the court will appoint an executor. The executor is responsible for administering the estate according to the laws of intestacy. The executor will be responsible for identifying and valuing the deceased person’s assets and paying any outstanding debts and taxes. Once the executor pays off the debts, they will distribute the remaining assets to the deceased person’s heirs according to the laws of intestacy.
In some cases, the deceased person may have created a trust or other estate planning instrument that allows them to distribute their assets outside of probate. If this is the case, the trust or other instrument will generally control the distribution of the assets, even if a will cannot be found.
It is important to note that the distribution of an estate, according to the laws of intestacy, can result in assets being distributed in a way that is not consistent with the deceased person’s wishes. This is why it is important to have a valid and up-to-date will. It is also critical to ensure that the will can be located when it is needed.
It is important to find a will before the probate period ends. Conducting a will search may take time and persistence. It is important to be thorough and patient in your search efforts and consider all possible locations where the will may be found.