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Searching for a will for free

How to Find Out if a Will Exists for Free

Discovering if a will exists for a deceased loved one can be important for probate & carrying out final wishes.

A loved one has recently passed and you’re trying to pick up the pieces. The funeral arrangements have been made, the burial arrangements are made, and the death certificates will be delivered in a week or two. As you start looking into the probate process you realize that the original copy of the will must be submitted to the Clerk of Court to begin the probate process. But where is the will?  Your loved one never mentioned having a will or where they may have stored it.  You know they were very organized and prepared, so you can’t imagine that a will was not prepared.  So, where do you begin?

Below are some tip on how to find out if a will exists for free as well as other methods.

Why do wills go missing?

It is possible that family members may make a will disappear, but it is not a common occurrence. There are a few reasons why this might happen, such as:

  • A family member may believe that the will is not valid, and may try to conceal it in order to prevent it from being used in the probate process.
  • A family member may have a dispute with another family member over the distribution of the estate.  In that case,  they may try to hide the will in order to gain an advantage in the dispute.
  • A family member may be acting out of malice or greed.  Some may try to destroy or hide the will in order to inherit more than they would otherwise receive.

It’s important to keep in mind that hiding or destroying a will is illegal, and if it comes to light that a family member has done so, they may face legal repercussions. If in fact a will is missing, the court’s will follow the state’s laws on intestate succession to distribute the estate. If you suspect that a family member may have made a will disappear, it’s important to take immediate action. You should contact a probate attorney for guidance on how to proceed.

  • The will may be missing because the deceased intentionally revoked it.  If this is the case, then the state laws on Intestate Succession would determine who inherits the estate.  Alternatively, the will may be missing due to factors such as a destroyed bank vault.  If this is true, then a photocopy or lawyer’s draft may be accepted by the probate court.

State Laws on Accepting Copies

Each state has its own laws on the acceptability of copies in the absence of the original. It’s important for potential heirs to consult with an attorney as soon as possible to protect their interests.  Matters like this are often settled through negotiation.  Alot will depend on factors such as the seriousness of the parties and the amount of assets involved.

Other ways how to find out if a will exists for free.

  • Search Public Records is a first area to search is public records. To search for a will in public records, you can start by contacting the county clerk’s office where the person who wrote the will resided at the time of their death. They may have information on file about any wills that were filed for probate, which is the legal process of proving the validity of a will. Additionally, you may be able to search online for wills that have been filed in public records, depending on the state you are in. Some states have online databases that allow you to search for wills and other legal documents, while others may require you to visit the courthouse in person to view the records.
  • Check local probate court records. Many courts have online databases that are accessible to the public.
  • Search The U.S. Will Registry: The U.S. Will Registry is a free online registration database where wills can be registered and later searched for a small fee.
  • Contact the Executor: If the will was recently filed, the executor or attorney handling the estate may know of its existence.
  • Check with Banks & Lawyers: Banks and lawyers may also have a copy of the will on file. Contact them to inquire.
  • Ask Family & Friends: Ask close family & friends if they know of a will. They may have information or know of its whereabouts.

Finding out if a will exists for a deceased loved one can be important for the probate process and honoring final wishes. By searching public records, searching The U.S. Will Registry, contacting the executor, checking with banks and lawyers, and asking family and friends, it is possible to find out if a will exists for free.  Unfortunately in many cases, a Last Will can’t be found.  

Can’t find a will, what now?

  1. Notify the probate court: If the will cannot be located, notify the probate court in the county where the deceased resided. The court will then follow the state’s laws on intestate succession to distribute the estate.
  2. Consult an attorney: It’s always a good idea to consult an attorney, particularly if there is a dispute over the distribution of the estate or the validity of the will.
  3. Keep in mind that each state has its own laws and procedures for handling missing wills.   It is very important to be aware of the specific laws in the state where the deceased resided.

Make it easy for loved ones to find your Last Will & Testament

Our national will database eases the burden placed on your loved ones. In fact, it’s been estimated that 67% of all wills are lost or misplaced.

The U.S. Will Registry has minimized this problem. Lifetime Registration of your Will is  FREE, easy, secure and remains confidential.  Copies of your will are not registered, only their location. Your papers remain securely in your possession.
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