How to Find a Last Will & Testament of a Deceased Loved One

by April Kohl
    Some states seal safety deposit boxes after death, making access difficult.

    Some states seal safety deposit boxes after death, making access difficult.

    Keith Brofsky/Photodisc/Getty Images

    When a person dies, the representative of his estate needs to be able to put all his affairs in order in accordance with his wishes. These wishes are usually be expressed in a will, but sometimes it can be difficult to find the right paperwork. In these situations, knowing how to find the last will and testament of a deceased loved one is essential to preventing a long and drawn-out probate.

    Step 1

    Collate the deceased loved one's paperwork, such as insurance and other important documents. Many people keep their papers all in one secure location, such as a safe or even a set of files. Some people do not, however, or may have more than one place for stored paperwork. Collecting all the documents together will let you work through them all more easily.

    Step 2

    Contact the deceased person's attorney, accountant or other associates with whom she had a special relationship of trust and confidence. If such a person exists, he may be holding the will for the deceased person in order to keep it safe. You or he can then submit the will to probate by filing a petition with the clerk of the court.

    Step 3

    Contact the clerk of the probate court for the area in which the deceased person lived and inquire whether a will has been notarized in the deceased's name. Some courts allow people to record their wills with the courts, in which case the court will have a copy of the will that can be used in probate. The court may also be able to provide copies of the will for a fee.

    Tips & Warnings

    • While some people choose to leave their wills in a safety deposit box at their local bank, this is not always a good idea. Because some states require that a safety deposit box be sealed when the box's owner dies, the will then becomes unavailable. Keeping a copy of the will at home or with a trusted person therefore makes it far easier to use.
    • Not everyone leaves a will. In these situations, the deceased person's estate will be dealt with in probate court according to the laws of the state in which the decedent resided. The court will also usually treat a deceased person as intestate if a will can be found but does not conform to state laws.

    About the Author

    Based in the United Kingdom, April Kohl has been writing since 1992, specializing in science and legal topics. Her work has appeared on the Second Life News Network website and in British Mensa's "LSQ" magazine. Kohl holds a Bachelor of Science in physics from Durham University and a diploma in English law from the Open University.

    Photo Credits

    • Keith Brofsky/Photodisc/Getty Images