After a loved one dies, coping with grief is not the only hard part of handling a loss. Those left behind can have bills to settle, paperwork to sort, and an estate to probate. Of course, you’ll need to know how to find a copy of a will to probate the estate.
People often pour thousands of dollars and dozens of hours into crafting meticulous estate plans. Those plans are useless if they can’t be located after a person’s death. And there are almost no regulations regarding who keeps the original copy of a will once it has been executed.
As a result, if a will is validly executed, the state doesn’t care if a will is kept safe in a lawyer’s files or hidden under junk in grandma’s attic.
How Can I Find My Loved One’s Will?
How can you find your loved one’s will after their death? In a best case scenario, your family has had open conversations about where to find important documents prior to a death in the family. Typically, this includes discussing how to find a copy of a will, as well as identifying where key contacts and financial records are. If your family hasn’t had a chance to discuss who keeps the original copy of a will, you can still undertake some key strategies to find one in the event of a sudden death.
How to Find a Copy of a Will – Online Searches
The deceased may have had the foresight to register their will online. A will registry is the easiest way for family members to find a copy of a will of a deceased person online. The registry may not contain a full electronic copy of the will itself. But it will at least contain information about how to find the original will. Once you’ve tracked down the person, law firm, or other entity that has the original will, you’ll be able to probate the estate.
If you can’t find information about the will online, you should try searching the deceased person’s house. Check every potential hiding place, including bedrooms, bathrooms, and under rugs and floorboards. Contact lawyers and accountants the deceased may have used during their lifetime and see if the will was left with them for safekeeping. Don’t forget to call the deceased’s bank. Inquire about any safety deposit boxes where the will may have been stored.
What If I Cannot Find a Will of a Deceased Person Online?
If you cannot find a will of a deceased person after performing an online search through The U.S Will Registry, the U.S. Will Registry will then enter your search information in their ‘missing will database” to let attorneys know that your loved one’s will is missing. Our easy, inexpensive registry search tool comes with the added comfort of our long-term commitment to helping connect families with their missing wills.
Do I Need the Original Will to Submit It for Probate?
It’s always best to produce an original will for probate. Typically, when an original will cannot be produced, the court will presume that the person who created the will intentionally destroyed it, intending to revoke it. When that happens, the court treats the person’s property as though they died without a will. That means the court will divide the property based on state law. This typically gives the property to the person’s closest relatives.
However, it is possible to prove the contents of a will using a copy. Each state has its own rules for this, and it’s best to reach out to a probate attorney in your state to better understand your options. At minimum, you will need to provide an explanation for why the original will can’t be found. For example, it was destroyed in a fire. This becomes complicated if someone contests the will’s validity.
The probate process will go much more smoothly if you can produce the original will. Many original wills will include a self-proving affidavit. This is a notarized document that can help speed up the probate process by proving that the will is valid.
If you’re having trouble finding a loved one’s will, check out the U.S. Will Registry. We have records of millions of wills, and we want to help you ensure that your loved one’s last wishes are honored.
The U.S. Will Registry
The U.S. Will Registry is an online database where people can find a copy of a will or information about where to find the original will. And if the will is missing, we have tools to help you track it down.
Registering wills is an important part of the estate planning process. Will registration helps others locate a will long after the keys to the safe are lost and attorneys have closed up their practices. Contact us today about how we can help you future-proof your estate plan or find a lost will.