Losing a loved one is never easy, and it can be overwhelming to sort through the legal and financial affairs that follow. One crucial aspect of this process is locating the deceased’s will. A will outlines the individual’s final wishes, including how their property and assets should be distributed. To follow, we will examine the significance of having a will when settling an estate. Furthermore, we will offer numerous resources and methods on how to find someone’s will.
First Place to Find Someone’s Will: The Probate Court
If you are unable to locate the will, you may need to contact the probate court in the county where the deceased person lived. The probate court is responsible for overseeing the distribution of assets after a person’s death. They may have a copy of the will on file if it was previously filed with the court. You can typically search for probate court information online, or you can contact the court directly.
Original or Duplicate, What Is Acceptable?
The original copy of the will is typically the most authoritative document and can provide the most accurate information regarding the deceased’s intentions.
However, finding the original copy of a will can sometimes be a challenging and time-consuming process. There may be situations where the original copy of the will cannot be located due to a variety of reasons such as misplacement, damage, or theft. In these cases, locating a duplicate copy of the will may be the only option available.
While a duplicate copy may not hold the same level of authority as the original, it can still be a valuable resource. A duplicate copy can provide insight into the deceased’s intentions and wishes, and can be used to settle the estate. It is important to note that not all states accept duplicate copies of a will, and the legal validity of such copies may vary depending on state law.
Contact the Deceased Person’s Attorney
If the deceased person had an attorney, they may have a copy of the will on file. Contact the attorney’s office and ask if they have a copy of the will or any other relevant documents. If the attorney only has a copy (not original) of the will, they may be able to provide you with additional information regarding the distribution of assets and any other legal matters.
Use a Will Registry Service to Find Someone’s Will
A will registry service is a centralized database that stores information about wills. If the deceased person registered their will with a registry service, it may be possible to find it by searching the database. There are several online will registry services available, and some states have their own registry. However, it is important to note that not all wills are registered, so this method may not always be successful.
Check the Deceased Person’s Home
One of the first places to start when looking for a will is the deceased person’s home. The will may be located in a safe, file cabinet, or other secure location. It is important to search all areas of the home, including the basement, attic, and garage. If you are unsure where to start, it may be helpful to ask other family members or close friends if they have any insight.
Check Safe Deposit Box
Another place to check to find someone’s will is in the deceased person’s safe deposit box. If you know that the person had a safe deposit box, contact the bank where the box is located. You may need to provide proof of your relationship to the deceased person and a death certificate. The bank may allow you to access the box with the appropriate paperwork and permission from the probate court. If the will is located in the safe deposit box, you can take the original will to the probate court to begin the process of distributing the assets.
It is important to note that if the will is in a safe deposit box that is solely in the name of the deceased person, accessing the box may be more complicated. The bank may require a court order before allowing access to the box. We recommend to consult with an attorney if this situation arises.
What Happens if you Simply Can’t Find Someone’s Will?
Here’s what happens when a will cannot be found.
Intestacy and Natural Beneficiaries
When a person dies without leaving a valid will, their estate will be distributed according to the laws of intestacy. These laws provide for the distribution of the estate to the deceased person’s natural beneficiaries, such as their spouse, children, parents, or siblings.
Distribution of Assets According to Intestacy Laws
In intestacy, the estate divides among the natural beneficiaries according to a predetermined formula. The exact formula for distribution can vary by jurisdiction. But, generally the surviving spouse and children are given priority over other relatives.
Predetermined Formula for Distribution
For example, in some jurisdictions, if the deceased person was survived by a spouse and children, the spouse may receive a certain percentage of the estate, with the remainder being divided equally among the children. If there are no surviving children, the spouse may receive a larger share of the estate. If the deceased person was not survived by a spouse or children, the estate may be distributed to other relatives, such as parents or siblings.
Assets Excluded from Intestacy Laws
It’s important to note that the laws of intestacy only apply to assets that would have passed through the deceased person’s will had they made one. Assets that are jointly owned or that have a named beneficiary, such as life insurance policies or retirement accounts, will pass directly to the joint owner or named beneficiary and will not be subject to intestacy laws.
Dependent Excluded from a Will? Here’s Your Next Move
If you are not a descendant of the deceased person and no will was found, you will not be entitled to any of the assets. In this situation, remember that the distribution of assets will still be governed by the state’s intestacy laws. The surviving spouse, children, or other close relatives of the deceased person will be entitled to the assets.
In certain cases, the court may conclude that you were dependent on the deceased person or were promised a specific asset by them. This determination may be made even if you are not a descendant of the deceased person. Providing evidence to support your claim is crucial. It may lead to the court awarding you a portion of the assets.
The probate process can be complex, and it’s crucial to remember this. To explore your legal options, we recommend that you consult with an attorney specializing in estate planning and probate law. The attorney can help you understand the laws governing the distribution of assets and advise you on how to proceed.
Finding a loved one’s will can be challenging, but it is necessary to ensure their final wishes are carried out. It is crucial to locate their will and follow the instructions outlined within. Following the methods outlined in this blog will increase your chances of finding the will. It will also help you avoid potential legal issues. With some help from others and a little persistence, you can find the will. Honoring your loved one’s final wishes will become possible once you’ve located it.