How to File Wills

by Carrie Ferland

Though not required in most jurisdictions, filing a will with the probate court prior to death creates a public record of the will and saves the executor of the estate a few steps in the final probate process. If the decedent failed to file a copy of his will prior to his passing, the executor will need to locate and file the will herself, and notify all interested parties before initiating the probate process.

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Prior to Decedent’s Passing

Step 1

Find the original, signed copy of the most recent and final will, including any affixed codicils. Ensure the will is notarized or, if not, bears the signatures of at least two disinterested witnesses.

Step 2

Make a copy of the original will. Retain the copy for your personal records.

Step 3

File the original will with the clerk of the probate court in the county where you currently reside. There is a nominal filing fee -- on average, between $50 and $150. The clerk will assign a docket number to your matter and provide you with a copy of the filed will.

Step 4

Make a copy of your filed will and file the copy with the office of the county recorder in the county where you reside. There is another nominal filing fee for this -- on average, around $10. Obtain a copy of your filed will or a receipt of filing.

Step 5

Place a copy of your filed will, a copy of your docket number, if applicable, and any other documents you received showing proof of filing, in a safe location for later use. Notify your spouse or closest relatives so they may retrieve these documents after your passing.

After the Decedent’s Passing

Step 1

Obtain the decedent’s last will and testament, along with any affixed codicils, from the decedent’s personal records. Also look for any other relevant documents, such as a docket number or proof of filing, that indicates the decedent previously filed the will. If you do find proof of filing, you do not need to file another copy -- simply initiate the probate proceedings, instead.

Step 2

Make a copy of the original will and retain the copy for the estate’s records. File the original copy of the will with the clerk of the probate court in the county where the estate resides. There is a nominal filing fee of between $50 and $150. You may use funds from the estate to cover the filing fee.

Step 3

Make notice of filing by providing a copy of the filing will to each beneficiary named within the will. Also, provide a copy, along with a copy of the death certificate, to any of the estate’s outstanding creditors, if applicable. If you do not know how to contact one or more of the beneficiaries, contact the clerk of the court for the court guidelines on making notice via newspaper or other media.