How to Get a Will From Probate Court

By Teo Spengler

Wills are sometimes full of secrets, listing family assets, naming offspring -- legitimate and otherwise -- and creating legacies for some and disinheriting others. Many people store last will and testaments in safety deposit boxes, personal safes or sealed envelopes left with legal counsel. But when a testator dies, the will's executor opens court-supervised probate to collect assets, pay debts and distribute the estate, and any member of the public can view the document and even make a copy.

Wills are sometimes full of secrets, listing family assets, naming offspring -- legitimate and otherwise -- and creating legacies for some and disinheriting others. Many people store last will and testaments in safety deposit boxes, personal safes or sealed envelopes left with legal counsel. But when a testator dies, the will's executor opens court-supervised probate to collect assets, pay debts and distribute the estate, and any member of the public can view the document and even make a copy.

Step 1

Determine where the executor filed the will for probate. Ask the executor, attorney or personal representative for the deceased, or else call the probate court in the county in which the testator died.

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Step 2

Ask the court clerk where the county maintains active probate files. Probate files are often kept in the same location as family law files, but some jurisdictions organize a separate file area.

Step 3

Visit the probate court clerk's office during business hours. Give the clerk the death certificate or relevant death information. She will identify the probate number for you and either call up the file herself or send you to another window to get it. In some jurisdictions, you find the probate number by telephoning a special probate court line.

Step 4

Flip through the probate file to find the last will and testament. It is usually one of the first documents in the file. Review it briefly to be certain you have the right file.

Step 5

Take the file to the appropriate area of the clerk's office to make copies. The same clerk who handed you the file often also makes photocopies. In other courts, look for a window marked "Copies." Small jurisdictions use self-service copy machines. Make or order copies of all relevant pages.

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References

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