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Woman trying to find a will of a deceased person online

How to Find a Will of a Deceased Person Online

Too often, the family knows a will exists, but can’t find the will. We will discuss options on how to find a will of a deceased person online as well as other methods.

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. 

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 locate a will to probate the estate.

Before Searching Online for Missing Will

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 and inquire about any safety deposit boxes where the will may have been stored.

Check public probate records

In some countries or states, probate records, including wills, are publicly available. Start by searching online databases or visiting the website of the probate court in the relevant jurisdiction. Look for sections related to wills, estates, or probate records. If available, you may find information about the deceased person’s will or estate documents.

How to Find a Will of a Deceased Person Online: Option 1

Search Online Will Repositories

In some countries or regions, online repositories exist where individuals can register their wills for safekeeping. To locate a will, check if such repositories exist in the relevant jurisdiction. Conduct a search using terms like “National Will Registry” or  “online will registry”.

Since 1996, The U.S. Will Registry has been established to assist the public and attorneys in locating missing wills. Registering a will is encouraged and offered free of charge to the public and attorneys to facilitate the process.

A will registry provides an easy way for family members to find a copy of a deceased person’s will online. However, please note that the registry does not contain the full electronic copy of the will itself. Instead, it provides information about where the testator stored the original or duplicate copy of the will. Once the original or duplicate copy of the will has been located, the estate can be probated.

How to Find a Will of a Deceased Person Online: Option 2

Contact the Probate Court

The process of contacting the probate court online can vary depending on the jurisdiction and specific court procedures. In some cases, probate courts have online portals or contact forms available for inquiries or requests related to wills and estates. Follow these steps:

      1. Search for the probate court’s website: Begin by searching online for the official website of the probate court in the relevant jurisdiction. Look for sections on wills, estates, or probate.
      2. Check for online contact information: Once you have found the probate court’s website, search for designated contact information. Look for email addresses, online forms, or phone numbers specifically provided for inquiries regarding wills or estates. Some courts may have dedicated email addresses or online contact forms for such requests.
      3. Send an inquiry or request: Use the provided contact information to reach out to the probate court. Compose a clear and concise message explaining your situation and the reason for your inquiry, such as a missing will. Include relevant details about the deceased person, such as their full name, date of death, and any other known information that can assist the court in locating the will.
      4. Follow the court’s instructions: The probate court will typically respond to your inquiry and provide guidance on the next steps to follow. They may request additional information, documentation, or specify particular procedures to be followed. It is crucial to carefully read and follow their instructions to ensure that your request is handled appropriately.

If you cannot find online contact information for the probate court, you may need to resort to other methods of communication, such as calling the court’s general phone number or visiting the court in person.

When are Wills Available to Public in Probate Court

When a person files their will with the probate court, it’s not a public record until they pass away. Remember, wills are private documents. At the decedent’s death, the court opens the will and updates the file stating the will is open, and the will becomes public record.

In the event that someone is physically unable to appear in court, they may request a copy of the will by fax or mail.

Probate Courts generally require a death certificate in order to probate a will. A death certificate confirms that the Testator is deceased, and that the court has jurisdiction over the matter. The death certificate is one of the most important documents in an estate probate proceeding.  Without a death certificate, there will be significant roadblocks to probating the Will.

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 deceased intentionally destroyed 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,  typically giving the property to their closest relatives.

However, it is possible to prove the contents of a will using a copy. Each state has its own rules for this.  You may want to reach out to a probate attorney in your state to better understand your options. The probate court may require an explanation for why the original will can’t be found. 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 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.

Requirement to File a Will

If you are aware that someone has died with a will, most states will require that you file that will with the probate court. Filing a will isn’t the same as filing probate documents (which include a Petition for Probate). Filing a will means just that—filing the will.

If you knowingly fail to file an existing will, you could be held liable in both criminal court and civil court. Not filing a will could result in damages to any party who would have benefited from the estate. Potential beneficiaries and creditors have a right to be made aware if they have an interest in the estate.


Remember that accessing someone else’s will is subject to legal regulations and may require proper authorization. In many cases, only individuals named in the will or those with a legitimate interest, such as immediate family members or legal representatives, are entitled to access the document. It’s advisable to consult with a lawyer familiar with the local laws and regulations surrounding wills to ensure you follow the appropriate procedures.

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