How Can I Get a Copy of a Will?

By Teo Spengler

TV shows often portray a lawyer reading the last will and testament to the assembled family. In real life, you usually have to track down a copy of the will yourself. It is easier to get a copy of a will once the maker is dead. You can only see the will of a living person if she agrees to show it you. Once the maker is deceased, however, the will is generally filed with the court for probate. Like most court documents, the vast majority of probated wills are available for public viewing and copying.

TV shows often portray a lawyer reading the last will and testament to the assembled family. In real life, you usually have to track down a copy of the will yourself. It is easier to get a copy of a will once the maker is dead. You can only see the will of a living person if she agrees to show it you. Once the maker is deceased, however, the will is generally filed with the court for probate. Like most court documents, the vast majority of probated wills are available for public viewing and copying.

Step 1

Compile information on the deceased, including full name, date of death and place of death. This information will be on the death certificate. Telephone probate courts in the region where the will maker died to determine where the will is to be probated. Obtain the street address and mailing address of that court.

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Step 2

Visit the probate court, if possible. Ask the court clerk for the probate file of the will of the deceased. Review the file and mark the pages you wish to copy, including the will. Follow local procedures to have the clerk copy them for you. The court probably charges a small, per-page copying fee.

Step 3

Call to find out the procedure for obtaining a copy of the will by mail if the probate court is not within convenient distance. You will probably have to send a check covering copying fees, and possibly a self-addressed, stamped envelope. Sometimes you can order documents through a court website.

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How Can I Get a Copy of a Last Will & Testament?

References

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How to Read a Will in Public Records

The terms of a last will and testament are private until the testator, or will maker, dies -- you cannot know the contents of a living person's will unless he shows you. However, once the testator dies, the will's executor files the document with the probate court. While courts sometimes restrict access to celebrities' wills, you can review the vast majority of wills at the court clerk's office. You can even read a celebrity's will if you are a relative and have a reasonable hope or expectation of receiving a bequest.

How to Find Out If You Are a Beneficiary in a Final Will When a Relative Dies

During a person's lifetime, her will is private; she determines who views the document. After she dies, the will becomes public. The executor files the document with the probate court and notifies all beneficiaries. At that point, anyone may inspect the will. To determine whether you are a beneficiary in a family member's will, review the will at the courthouse or contact the executor.

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A last will and testament is the written description of how the maker of the will -- called the testator -- intends to distribute her property at her death. Heirs receive a copy of the will at the testator's death, but family members and the curious public view it in the courthouse.

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