Where to Obtain a Copy of a Last Will & Testament

By Cindy Hill

A last will and testament is a legal document used to indicate the testator's intentions for the distribution of assets, as well as for the settlement of other legal affairs like the appointment of a guardian, after the testator's death. You may need to know where to obtain a copy of a last will and testament to participate in probate proceedings, or when doing genealogical or land title research.

A last will and testament is a legal document used to indicate the testator's intentions for the distribution of assets, as well as for the settlement of other legal affairs like the appointment of a guardian, after the testator's death. You may need to know where to obtain a copy of a last will and testament to participate in probate proceedings, or when doing genealogical or land title research.

Attorney's Office

Many people keep a copy of their will at home as well as a copy at their attorney's office, advises FindLaw. If you have lost a copy of your own last will and testament, contact your attorney to obtain another copy. However, an attorney cannot give you a copy of another living person's will without that person's permission.

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Probate Court

After a person dies, his will is usually filed in the probate court in the jurisdiction where he last resided. You may obtain a copy of that will by paying a copying fee, often with a written request form, to the clerk of the probate court. While some courts allow wills to be stored at the clerk's office for safekeeping prior to a person's death, local rules vary as to whether such wills are considered public record and can be copied. Some jurisdictions do not have a separate probate court clerk's office; for example, the city of Alexandria, Virginia reports that wills are maintained in the three circuit courts serving residents of the area.

Land Records

Some current wills, and many historic wills, are filed in land records as evidence of legal authority to transfer interest in real property in the course of administering an estate. The Green Lake County, Wisconsin, Register of Deeds, for example, reports that it has wills going back to the early nineteenth century filed amidst its other vital records files. You may obtain a copy of a last will and testament from public land records by searching the record and paying a copying fee to the land records clerk.

Foreign Courts

Foreign jurisdictions vary widely in their locations and methods for filing historic and recent wills. In England, you may obtain a copy of a will executed prior to 1858 by writing, with a search fee, to the National Archives, according to Her Majesty's Court Service. British wills post 1858 can be obtained by a request with a search fee to the York Probate Sub-Registry. In Italy, wills are publicly recorded in the Succession Office of the Tribunale in major Italian cities, according to the Italian Legal Language Service. Copies of the will must be requested from the appropriate Tribunale. The U.S. Embassy for the country where you are seeking to find a copy of a will can often assist in directing you to the legal repository for wills in that jurisdiction.

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How to Find Wills in Colorado

References

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

Don't expect to see your grandfather's will while he is alive, unless he decides to show it to you. While the testator -- the person making a will -- is alive, his last testament is private and completely revocable. Your grandfather can change it on whim by writing a codicil or drafting a superseding will. However, when the testator dies, his will becomes effective -- and public. The court opens probate on the will and any member of the public can view and copy the document in the clerk's office.

How Do I Locate a Person's Last Will & Testament in Ohio?

A will is a legal document that sets forth how a person wishes his assets to be distributed after his death. To be valid, an Ohio will must be submitted to an Ohio probate court. Once this occurs, it becomes a public record which can be accessed by any member of the public. No state agency in Ohio maintains a statewide database of all wills submitted to a probate court, so finding an Ohio will requires determining in which county the will has been submitted to a probate court.

How to Find Deceased Family Wills

A will is a written document that identifies a person's property and heirs, and can therefore provide useful information if, for example, you want to trace your ancestry or investigate a particular financial transaction. Effective after death, a will passes through a probate court where a judge oversees asset distribution according to the will's instructions. Therefore, when searching for the will of a deceased family member, start in the probate court that supervised its administration.

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