How to Locate Wills

by Cindy Hill
Some wills are stored in unusual places.

Some wills are stored in unusual places.

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Locating the will of a recently deceased loved one can be frustrating if the person's spouse or other family member does not know where it was stored. Finding a will as quickly as possible is important, as many people include instructions for their final arrangements, such as organ donations and funerals, within their will packet. Knowledge of the departed's personal habits as well as the identity of the deceased's lawyer and banker can help you locate wills more efficiently.

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Step 1

Ask the deceased person's spouse, adult children, and close friends or business partners if they know where the departed kept his will. Include in your inquiries the decedent's administrative assistant or the secretary or receptionist at his place of business.

Step 2

Obtain permission and keys from the deceased person's spouse or adult children to enter her home. Physically search the deceased person's bureau and desk drawers, closet and boxes of paper. Use any insight into the decedent's personal habits that you can glean from your own knowledge or conversations with family members to determine if the decedent had an unusual hiding spot for important items, such as under floorboards or in the flour bin.

Step 3

Check the decedent's safe deposit box, if you can. In many states, the law requires that safe deposit boxes be sealed on a person's death, unless a co-owner of the box has a key and continuing legal rights of access, advises organizing consultant Melanie Cullen writing for LegacyConnect.

Step 4

Contact the decedent's attorney. Attorneys often maintain copies of their clients' wills either in their files or electronically, advises J.K. Lasser's New Rules for Estate and Tax Planning.

Step 5

Check the probate court clerk's office, and the town or county clerk or land records in the jurisdiction where the decedent died. Most states' laws, such as those of the Virginia Code, require all wills that are in probate court to be recorded in the court clerk's office. Some jurisdictions allow people to file or store their wills in a will bank in the probate court clerk's or municipal clerk's office.