How to Find Out if a Will Was Filed

By Anna Assad

Locating a filed will of a deceased person is often the first step for probate, the legal proceeding used to settle an estate and distribute assets to heirs. The person filing a petition for probate needs to locate the original will of the deceased person in order to move forward in court. A will may have been filed for safekeeping by the deceased person while he was still alive. If you cannot locate a will for your departed loved one, checking the local courts may help you find the document.

Locating a filed will of a deceased person is often the first step for probate, the legal proceeding used to settle an estate and distribute assets to heirs. The person filing a petition for probate needs to locate the original will of the deceased person in order to move forward in court. A will may have been filed for safekeeping by the deceased person while he was still alive. If you cannot locate a will for your departed loved one, checking the local courts may help you find the document.

Step 1

Write down the name of the deceased person. Verify the name is spelled correctly; a mistake in the spelling may make locating a will difficult. Get the middle name of the person if he had a common last name like Smith or Miller.

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Step 2

Locate the probate or surrogate court responsible for the area where the deceased person lived. Visit the official website of your state's court system to find the address for the court you must visit.

Step 3

Visit the appropriate probate or surrogate's office. Bring your state identification with you. Give the court clerk the name you wrote and ask if a will has been filed. Some states may not give you the information or require you to show identification.

Step 4

Write down the locations of real estate the deceased person owned if no will is filed in the court that has jurisdiction over her main residence. A will may have been filed in another locale where she owned real estate.

Step 5

Visit the official state court system website for each area where the deceased person owned real estate. Locate the court responsible for each area. Write down the contact information and address for each court.

Step 6

Visit the office of the other courts that are near you. Probate and surrogate courts typically will not give out information over the phone. Give each clerk the deceased person's name and ask if a will was filed.

Step 7

Contact the courts that are not near you. Request instructions for looking up a filed will. You may be required to visit the court office in person, but some courts will send you a request form in the mail that you can complete and return. Ask if any fees are required for a will search through the mail, and write down the acceptable payment methods.

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How to Find a Last Will & Testament in Texas

References

Related articles

How to Find Out If an Estate Has Been Settled

Estate settlement occurs when the court approves the final report from the estate's appointed representative, usually an executor or administrator. The estate settlement process involves payment of the deceased's debts, final tax return fillings and the transfer and sale of assets with property and sale monies going to the deceased's heirs or will beneficiaries. Estate proceedings are a matter of public record, so if you need to know whether an estate was settled, you can find out by viewing the estate's court records. Finding out whether an estate is settled is useful in various situations, especially if you're a family member or will beneficiary who didn't receive your share, or a creditor who never received payment.

How to Find Out If Someone Left a Will for Probate

A will is a written document that specifies how a person wishes his estate to be divided. After the testator dies, the will is commonly subject to court proceedings known as probate. Relatives and other potential heirs may find it necessary to locate a will, especially when challenging or questioning the estate proceedings; others often find wills useful when researching family trees. Wills and estate proceedings are typically filed in the probate court of the county or counties in which the deceased had a connection, such as residence or property holdings.

How do I Find Last Will Records?

Last will records are strictly private during the life of the testator. After his demise, they move into the public realm. Whether you need the will records to ascertain an inheritance, trace property ownership or piece together family history, your search begins at the courthouse. The will executor -- the person administering the estate -- files a petition for probate with the court in the county in which the testator resided before he died. The resulting probate file, containing the will and all pertinent will documents, is available for public viewing.

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