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Find Out if a Will Exists

The death of a loved one is an incredibly emotional and stressful time. Not only will you be trying to process the loss, but there are decisions that need to be made. There are also details that need to be taken care of in a short period of time. Once the funeral arrangements are made, there are many financial and legal tasks that need to be taken care of in order to settle the deceased person’s estate. This will often leave relatives wondering who will handle the estate, who gets the final say when important decisions are made, and how the deceased’s assets will be divided. Ideally, an individual will create a will that names an executor to handle their estate. But what are the outlets that can help you find out if a will exists?

Finding a Loved One’s Will: Steps to Take

Often, people inform their families about their chosen executor and where they’ve stored their will, making it easily accessible after their passing. However, this isn’t always the case, leaving family members uncertain about the existence or location of the will.

In such situations, initiating a will search becomes crucial as the first step in the probate process. Exhausting all options to find the will ensures that the deceased’s wishes, if documented, are followed. Additionally, it helps determine if the individual passed away intestate, leading to a potentially lengthy probate process where the court assigns an executor and divides assets according to state laws.

Thus, it’s vital to make every effort to locate a loved one’s will, as having one can significantly ease the estate settlement process. If you’re unsure where to start looking or need assistance in determining the existence of a will, there are steps you can take to aid in your search.

Check the Deceased Person’s Home

The first place to start when searching for a deceased person’s will is their house. You should start with the obvious places someone may place important documents like a desk or filing cabinet. However, you need to be thorough in your search. Sometimes, in an effort to keep their will safe, an individual may hide their will in an unconventional place. This may take time, as you may have to search every nook and cranny of their home. Make sure that you search through all of your loved one’s drawers, shelves, cupboards, and closets. You may even want to consider checking unusual places people may hide important documents such as shoe boxes, books, and in picture frames. In fact, people have found wills in freezers, under mattresses, and in glove boxes!

It is important that you exhaust every possible option when searching for your loved one’s will. You should also search to see if they had a personal safe in their home, as this is another common place to hide an important document like a will.

Contact Their Current and Past Attorneys

If you can’t find a copy of a will in your loved one’s house, try contacting any attorneys that they have worked with in the past. If you do not know who they worked with, try searching their house to see if you can find a business card or legal documents pointing to any local law firms. It is also likely that they worked with an estate planning attorney to help them create it.

Oftentimes, when attorneys create a will, they will give the attorney a copy and keep the original for safekeeping. Most attorneys do not want to hold the original document of a will.  If you are able to track down the attorney, you may be able to find a duplicate copy of the will.

If the deceased’s attorney did not help them draft a will, this does not mean that a will doesn’t exist. In fact, there are many programs online that help people create their own wills from home. So you may not be out of luck just yet.

Check With the Probate Court

Depending on the state where the deceased lived, their state may provide a method for filing a will at the county courthouse while they are still alive, ensuring that their will is on file when they die. You should then try contacting the probate court in the county where the deceased lived throughout their adult life to ask if your loved one had a will on file.

However, you may need to do some digging into your loved one’s life to find out all of the places that they have lived. It is also possible that they filed their will many years ago and haven’t updated it since.

Contact the Deceased Person’s Financial Institutions

When needing to find out if a will exists, you could also contact financial institutions to find out if your loved one had a safe deposit box. Many people rent a safe deposit box from banks so that they have somewhere to store their most important valuables. However, many people also use their safe deposit box to safeguard important documents such as social security cards, property titles, marriage licenses, and even wills. Keeping the original copy of a will in a safe deposit box ensures the protection of the document.

Unfortunately, if you discover that your loved one had a safe deposit box, accessing a safe deposit box may not be a simple feat if the deceased is the sole owner listed on the safe deposit box, as the safe deposit box will be sealed upon the owner’s death.

Bank regulations also vary by state. In fact, some states allow temporary access to a deceased person’s safe deposit box for the sole purpose of removing a will (under the supervision of a bank employee). However, some states will require you to have a court order to access your loved one’s safe deposit box. While this may be a hassle, it is worth the effort as there is a good chance they left a will in their box.

Research and Identify Reputable Online Will Registries

Search online for reputable will registries. There are online services, such as The U.S. Will Registry, which allow people to register their wills online. This way, their loved ones can easily find their wills after their passing. You can check these registries to see if the person who passed away has registered their will. If they or their attorney registered their will, follow the registry’s process for searching for the will. Will Registries have millions of will registrations nationally and internationally.  This can be a helpful resource for locating a loved one’s missing will.

Check With Family and Friends

You should also ask close family and friends if they know whether your loved one created a will and where they may have put it. Those who were close to the deceased can be invaluable in aiding to find out if a will exists. They may also have served as witnesses to the signing of the will and know its location. Moreover, the deceased may have asked them to hold onto the will for safekeeping.

Furthermore, if the deceased named an executor in their will, they may have left the will with their executor. This way, they would have easy access to it after their death. It is then important that you ask around if you are having trouble locating a loved one’s will.

Consider Hiring a Professional to Help

If none of your efforts turn up a will, this does not necessarily mean that no will exists. It’s just possible that you haven’t thought of every location they could have hidden their will. As a last resort, you may want to consider hiring a professional such as a private investigator or an estate attorney can also help you in searching if a will exists. Someone with experience may have a better chance than you would have had on your own.


Don’t Have a Will, or Need to Update Your Will?

The U.S. Will Registry has created a FREE online will program for the public to create a user-friendly, online legal will from your home. Creating a will from home gives you the ability to take your time and ensure your wishes are accurately reflected.

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