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How to Find the Lawyer Who Wrote a Will

When a person passes away and their will cannot be found at home, the first instinct for most is to locate the attorney who drafted it. In some instances, the family may know the lawyer’s identity but struggle to find them. In others, they may be completely unaware of who the attorney is. We’ll offer guidance on how to navigate both situations.

Dealing with the loss of a loved one is already difficult, and dealing with legal matters can compound the stress. Finding the attorney who wrote the will is often crucial for initiating the probate process and ensuring the deceased’s wishes are fulfilled. Whether you have the attorney’s name or are starting from scratch, there are steps you can take to locate them and proceed with necessary legal proceedings.

Finding the Lawyer Who Wrote the Will

If you know the name of the attorney who wrote the will but can’t locate them now, you can consider the following steps:

  1. Contact Previous Law Firms: Reach out to the attorney’s previous law firms or employers for information on their current whereabouts.
  2. Check State Bar Association: Consult the state bar association where the attorney was licensed to practice law for updated contact information.
  3. Search Online: Use search engines and legal directories to look for the attorney’s name along with relevant keywords.
  4. Visit the Courthouse: Inquire at the courthouse in the county where the attorney practiced law, as they may have records or information about their current location.
  5. Reach Out to Legal Networks: Contact other attorneys or legal professionals who may have worked with or know the attorney in question.

Don’t Know the Name of the Lawyer

Check for a Safe Deposit Box

It is very common for people who own a safe deposit box to keep their important papers there, including their will and any other estate planning documents. If you know what banks they had accounts at, schedule an appointment with the a branch manager to determine if he had a safe deposit box. If they did, there’s a legal way for you to apply for access to the box for the purpose of determining if a will is there.

Review all Bank Statements

Search for payments made to any legal firm. Once you determine if a payment was made, call to check if he was a client of that attorney for estate planning purposes. While the attorney may not be able to discuss the matter with you (if you’re not the executor named in the will or a beneficiary), but it will surely put the attorney on notice of the person’s death and will prompt them to get in touch with the executor named in the will. This will also prompt the attorney to file the will in the Probate Court. Probated wills become public records, which means anyone can show up at the courthouse and view them in their entirety.

Go Online

The best place to start looking for the lawyer who wrote a will, is to head online. While you need to know the first and last name, it will also be helpful if you have info about State, Country, Zip code, or Firm name. These will be pretty useful in zeroing in on the lawyer in question. And, if there are multiple lawyers with the same name, you can pick the one that likely wrote the will in question.

Courthouse Search

Let’s now assume that you, as a residuary beneficiary, cannot find the attorney online or that you don’t know their name. The next step is to visit the county where the deceased person lived and visit the courthouse. You need to go through legal records and see where the deceased person is mentioned. If you know the deceased person went through some legal procedures during their lifetime, start there. If you don’t know of any legal procedures, start with the following:

    • Civil litigations
    • Family law
    • Criminal court

These are among the most common processes people go through. Therefore, you are most likely to find some records. Once you find a legal procedure, talk with the clerk’s office and ask them to help locate the file. In that file, you will find the names and numbers of all the lawyers involved in the legal process. Copy that information.

Similarly, you can go to the federal district courthouse and look for information. Here you can go through:

    • Tax court records
    • Federal charges
    • Bankruptcy records

Again, if you know that the deceased went through any of these, start there. Search for the information of any lawyer that took part in the procedures, and copy it.

Once you’ve gathered your list of attorneys, go through it. If you know the name, this should be pretty simple. But, if you don’t, call every number. If you find an invalid number, contact the state bar association for the state where the lawyer practiced. If the lawyer is still a member, the person in charge of records should provide you with their updated info. Call each attorney and ask them whether they’ve made the will.

Notary Public Search

Another answer to how to find the lawyer who wrote a will is to go through the notary public search. First, you collect all the signed legal documents that the deceased person left behind. As a beneficiary, you can also go to the county assessor’s office and look for notarized deed records. Documents like:

    • Deeds
    • Divorce settlements
    • Affidavits

All require notarization. And for the deceased person to have their signature notarized, they had to sign the document in front of a notary public. Perhaps there was even a living trust. When you find a notary signature in all these documents, copy the name, the location, and the commission number of the notary public.

The next thing to do is to call the secretary of state where the notary public authenticated the document. Once you do, ask for the contact info of the notary public who notarized the deceased person’s signature. In many instances, the notary publics are employed by law firms as a convenience to clients that wish to sign legal documents. Here, the notary public can tell you who the deceased’s lawyer was, even if you are a beneficiary that isn’t directly related to the deceased.

Ideally, they will also give you their contact info. If the notary public didn’t work for the law firm representing the deceased, they could still help. They can tell you whether a lawyer was present or officially represented the deceased when the document was signed. And hopefully, they can remember who the lawyer was.

Final Thoughts

If you still cannot find the attorney who wrote the will or a copy of the will, there are other things you can do. The court will probably take the position that the testator didn’t have a Last Will, or destroyed their will with the intention of revoking it. In this situation, the deceased’s property will pass according to your state’s laws for intestate succession — a legal guideline list of relatives who stand in line to inherit when someone dies without a will. Under some isolated circumstances, the court might accept a copy of the will if you can’t locate the original.

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