How to Find Out if a Person Died With an Estate

By Michael Butler

Almost everyone has an estate at the time of death: An estate is simply the property the person owned at the moment of death. Most people own something, even if it is only a few personal items. However, you may not know the size of a deceased person's estate. If someone has initiated court proceedings to account for and divide the estate, you can often find out what the estate contains.

Almost everyone has an estate at the time of death: An estate is simply the property the person owned at the moment of death. Most people own something, even if it is only a few personal items. However, you may not know the size of a deceased person's estate. If someone has initiated court proceedings to account for and divide the estate, you can often find out what the estate contains.

Step 1

Go to the clerk of the court's office in the county in which the person lived at the time of death.

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Step 2

Ask the clerk if a will has been filed with the court and if it is available for public viewing. If a will has not been filed, ask if proceedings for intestate succession have commenced.

Step 3

Read the will, if it is available for public viewing, to determine who the executor of the estate is. The executor is the person responsible for determining what property the deceased had at death. If there is not a will, courts often appoint a personal representative to carry out the same function as an executor. Ask the clerk for the contact information of the executor or personal representative; it will be on file with the court.

Step 4

Contact the executor and ask for the information you want. If the executor will not tell you, monitor any legal proceedings for filings and hearings that you can view to ascertain the information.

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Are Last Wills & Testaments Public Information?

References

Related articles

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.

How to Contest the Executor of a Will

An executor is a person who handles the financial affairs of an estate, including the distribution of assets to heirs, and is named in the will of a deceased person. Probate, the legal process used to sort out an estate, gives the executor authority to perform his duties. You, as an heir of the estate, have the right to contest an executor's appointment if you are concerned about his ability to perform his duties or if you believe the will naming him is invalid. A will may be invalid under your state's laws due to the mental incompetency of the deceased person at the time the will was made, fraud, or the will maker being pressured or coerced into signing the document.

How to Find Wills

Wills not only provide information about heirs and inheritance, but also help those tracing family history or establishing a chain of property ownership. Prior to a testator's death, his will is a private document and you "find" it only with his permission. The court does not open wills of a living person to public review even if the testator filed them with the court for safe keeping. From the date the court accepts a will for probate, however, the will becomes part of the court file and accessible to the public. The more recent the probate, the easier the will to locate.

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