After a loved one passes away, it’s important to locate his or her will. This legal document truly sets the stage for what’s ahead and answers a lot of important questions, such as who is the executor of the estate and who are the beneficiaries.
Wills are kept in all kinds of places. Some store it at home in a safe, some keep it at their attorney’s office, and others file it with their local probate court. Thanks to technology, there are now ways to find a will online for free.
How to Find a Will Online Free
Before searching the decedent’s home for the will or calling their attorney, do an online search through the probate court in the county where the decedent lived. Keep in mind, not all counties call it a probate court. It may be referred to as an orphan’s court, surrogate’s court, superior court, or district court. Just locate the court that handles estates.
Find a Will in Public Records from the Local 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 reflecting that the will is open, and the will becomes public record. By going online to the probate court’s website and searching the court’s docket, you can find relevant information about the decedent’s file, such as when the will was filed, opened, and probated, if applicable. The court’s online portal typically asks for the decedent’s first and last name and date of birth. To see the file in full requires an in-person visit to the probate court.
Now, if the decedent did not file a will with the probate court, you may have to track down the will through other means, if one exists.
How to Get a Copy of a Will Online
To request a copy of a will from a probate court typically requires an in-person visit or request by mail or fax. There’s also usually a copying fee, which can range anywhere from $.50 to a few dollars per page.
Use The U.S. Will Registry to Find a Missing Will Online
Not being able to find a will can negatively impact the decedent’s family by causing frustration and delays. Even if you find one, it’s also possible that a more recent will exists.
Founded in 1997, The U.S. Will Registry is an online search portal that taps into a national database registry of wills. This registry has information on the location of a person’s will, relevant contact information, and what the decedent’s final estate documents include. The U.S. Will Registry has registrations dating back to 1967 and consists of millions of wills registered from around the world.
To locate a missing will, simply search by using the decedent’s name, birthdate, and state. What may be found can make a world of difference to your family’s future.