How to find a will of a deceased person

Have you ever thought about what it would be like to have someone going through your personal effects? When someone dies, all of his personal property is handled by his closest family members. This is usually the time when the will is found.

Procedure on death if there is a will

The well-organized individual will leave a copy of his last will and testament with his attorney. The individual will name one of his family members as executor of his estate telling him to contact the attorney who has the will. When the individual dies, the executor must inform the lawyer of the death and request a copy of the will. The Executor is given authority over the estate of the Deceased. This is an incredible amount of power if there are valuable assets in the estate.

The legal community. Place a notice in a local legal newspaper or county bar association publication, asking any lawyer who has the will to turn it over to you. Handwritten, unwitnessed wills, which are valid in about half the states , may look more like letters or lists.

Getting a copy of the Will

If you plan to take the will through regular probate , you need the actual document the person signed. Courts generally do not accept copies. Lists of property items. In about half the states, a will can refer to an outside document to dispose of items of tangible personal property—that is, anything tangible except real estate. So if you find any document that lists items and who should inherit them, hang on to it. Also keep anything labeled "Codicil.

These days, codicils are rare. Most wills are created on computers, so people who want to change something commonly make a whole new will, which takes the place of all earlier ones. You may be left with no will at all, or with an old one that you believe the lost one revoked.

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You may be able to prove the existence of a lost will—and perhaps even its terms—to the satisfaction of a probate court by producing the witnesses who signed the will and coming up with convincing evidence of what the will said. If you have good reason to think that someone has the will but intends to hide it, you can sue to force the person to file the will.

Are you a legal professional? By submitting this form, you agree to Findlaw. We respect your privacy. Wills are the most common way for people to state their preferences about how their property should be handled after their death.

What Happens if a Person Dies Without a Will?

A will is similar to an instruction booklet for the probate court, the court that oversees estate administration and disputes over the will itself. The will provides the court with guidance as to how to distribute the deceased person's assets in accordance with his or her wishes.

See What Does an Executor Do? Wills have been referred to as "tickets to probate court. However, wills only control probate assets , that is, those assets that can be transferred by the probate court. Some assets do not have to be probated and generally are not controlled by a will.

These assets include:. Because these assets are transferred by means other than the probate process, a will generally does not control how they are distributed.

Example : A person names her spouse in a beneficiary designation to receive her life insurance proceeds on her death. In her will, she names her sister to receive those same proceeds. Because the proceeds are paid directly to the spouse, they never become part of the deceased person's estate.

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Karen Walsh: How do you know if a deceased person has left a will?

Therefore, her will, which only controls her estate, cannot override the beneficiary designation. A will must meet certain formal requirements in order to be valid, otherwise it may be challenged during the probate process.


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These requirements vary from state to state.