Can You Get a Copy of a Will Before Someone Dies?

By Heather Frances J.D.

A will is not actually permanent until its writer, called a testator, dies. Thus, while a testator can allow others to read his will, he can also keep it a secret. Even if he allows others to read a version of his will or files it with a local court, he can change it at any time prior to his death.

A will is not actually permanent until its writer, called a testator, dies. Thus, while a testator can allow others to read his will, he can also keep it a secret. Even if he allows others to read a version of his will or files it with a local court, he can change it at any time prior to his death.

Filing a Will

In many states, like Texas, testators can file their wills with a local government office, such as a county clerk. However, this is typically optional. Filing the will gives the testator a safe place to store his will, ensuring it won't be lost somewhere amongst his other papers after his death. A testator may even be able to include contact information for those he wants notified after his death that his will is on file. These individuals can retrieve the filed copy of the will after the testator dies and submit the will to probate. However, filing a will does not necessarily give others access to the document before the testator's death and procedures can vary greatly by state law.

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Sharing a Will's Contents

A testator can keep his will completely private, not letting anyone other than a handful of neutral witnesses or an attorney see it. Generally, there is no way to force a testator to give up a copy of his will before he dies. However, a testator can choose to share copies with his loved ones so that the terms of the will do not come as a shock after his death. Testators are free to change the terms of the will, though, even after giving copies to others.

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Can Anyone See Someone's Last Will & Testament?

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Related articles

Is a Will Public Information After Death?

Many people keep their last will and testament secret while they are alive, hidden away in a safety deposit box or a personal safe. But unless the will is superseded by another, it loses its private status when the testator dies. Whether the will belongs to a celebrity or your grandmother, it is usually open to public viewing after death.

Problems Probating a Will

When a person dies having made a will, it's referred to as dying "testate." Before a testate decedent's estate can be administered in probate court, his will must be admitted. Often, admitting a will to probate goes off without a hitch — the will is accepted as valid and the probate process proceeds. Sometimes, however, problems can arise. Under these unfortunate circumstances, it's generally advisable to consult an experienced estate planning attorney for assistance.

Getting a Copy of a Last Will and Testament in Tennessee

In Tennessee, a will executed by a testator (the person making the will) is typically available only after the testator passes. The will is made publicly available when it is read in open court, if the testator deposited the will with the clerk of the probate court. Eventually, every will probated in a county probate court in Tennessee becomes publicly available and then anyone can obtain a copy of the document.

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