How to Find Out If You Were Included in a Will When Someone Dies

By Teo Spengler

A death in the family brings sorrow, and it also brings complications over inheritance. A last will and testament is the deceased family member's final communication to the world about her life, and few lines are more painful than that dividing the heirs from the disinherited. Although the will executor eventually contacts heirs to distribute assets, this can be months, and even years, after the date of death, depending upon the complexity of the estate. You can find out the will terms far earlier by making a short trip to the county courthouse.

A death in the family brings sorrow, and it also brings complications over inheritance. A last will and testament is the deceased family member's final communication to the world about her life, and few lines are more painful than that dividing the heirs from the disinherited. Although the will executor eventually contacts heirs to distribute assets, this can be months, and even years, after the date of death, depending upon the complexity of the estate. You can find out the will terms far earlier by making a short trip to the county courthouse.

Step 1

Determine the address of the court where the will is in probate, usually the probate court in the county in which the testator died. Alternatively, try the probate court in the county the testator resided before death. In some jurisdictions, like Los Angeles, a special probate court phone number provides case information over the telephone. As a last resort, ask next of kin where the will is filed.

Protect your loved ones by a legally binding will. Make a Will Online Now

Step 2

Take the death certificate -- a public record available from vital statistics in the jurisdiction -- to the jurisdictional courthouse or, if you don't have the certificate, you will need the full name of the deceased and his date and place of death. In many jurisdictions, the general clerk's office files all legal documents including probate documents. Ask the clerk to pull the probate file. Generally, you review the file in a nearby location with a clerk observing, but different jurisdictions impose different restrictions. A probate file is an official court record; do not mark documents or take the file from the courthouse.

Step 3

Look through the probate file for the last will and testament; it is likely one of the early documents. Review it in the courthouse or obtain a copy from the court clerk and read the will at home. Heirs are generally not listed separately, so search the entire bequest section for your name or words referencing you (for example,"my sister Sophie's only daughter.")

Step 4

Obtain the name and phone number of the executor from the will or probate file. An executor files the will in probate, collects assets, pays the testator's outstanding bills and distributes the remainder of the estate according to the terms of the will. The testator names the executor in the will and her name is listed in most probate documents. Call the executor and ask questions to confirm whether the testator left you a devise in the will.

Protect your loved ones by a legally binding will. Make a Will Online Now
How to Read a Last Will & Testament

References

Related articles

How to Locate a Person's Last Will & Testament

The only time you can locate a last will and testament -- legally -- is after the testator is dead. During a person's lifetime, her will is private and attempts to view or abscond with it are considered criminal. A will is the written description of the testator 's intentions for her property after her death. It includes devises and names an executor to administer the will. When the testator dies, the executor files the will in probate court; that is where you -- and any other member of the public -- can locate it.

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.

How to Read a Last Will & Testament After a Death

TV shows sometimes include scenes in which an attorney for a recently deceased millionaire reads the will to the assembled relatives, causing shock and astonishment. However, no American jurisdiction requires a public will reading. Most people read a will at the court clerk's office. After a testator dies, the probate court reviews his will for validity and supervises its administration until the executor distributes estate property to the heirs. This is termed probate. Anyone can read or copy the will at the courthouse during and after probate.

LegalZoom. Legal help is here. Start Here. Wills. Trusts. Attorney help.

Related articles

How to Get a Will From Probate Court

Wills are sometimes full of secrets, listing family assets, naming offspring -- legitimate and otherwise -- and ...

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 ...

How to Find a Will for Someone Who Has Died

A last will and testament is the final comment of the deceased on her life. You review a will to note that comment, to ...

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 ...

Browse by category