Where Do I Find Someone's Last Will & Testament?

By A.L. Kennedy

The original of a last will and testament should be filed with the probate court once its owner passes away. However, sometimes you may not know right away where this document is located, and will therefore need to search for the deceased person's last will and testament. Knowing some commonly used places where someone's last will and testament may be stored at may make the search easier.

The original of a last will and testament should be filed with the probate court once its owner passes away. However, sometimes you may not know right away where this document is located, and will therefore need to search for the deceased person's last will and testament. Knowing some commonly used places where someone's last will and testament may be stored at may make the search easier.

Safe Deposit Box

The Federal Emergency Management Association recommends keeping your last will and testament -- along with your living will and other essential documents -- in a safe deposit box so that it will not be destroyed in a household emergency. Before opening a safe deposit box, however, check with an attorney in your state to ensure that those you leave behind will be able to access your safe deposit box when you are gone.

Protect your loved ones. Start My Estate Plan

Attorney's Office

Attorneys who prepare last wills as a part of their practice often keep a copy of the last will and testament in their files. Although the copy is often not signed and cannot be admitted to probate, it may include a note about where to find the original, which can be filed with the probate court. Likewise, the deceased person's attorney may be able to tell you where the original will is located.

Probate Court

Some states allow residents to file their wills with the probate court for safekeeping. When a living person files her will with the court, the court does not open a probate estate but merely keeps the will, usually in a sealed envelope or filing cabinet, until the court receives notice that the person has died. Contact the probate court in the jurisdiction where the deceased resided to find out whether or not it has the person's will on file.

With Household Documents

Many people store their last wills along with other important documents in their homes. A fire safe is a logical place to look for a last will and testament, as is a standard household safe. You may even find the will filed in a file cabinet or other place where it is vulnerable to damage. Finally, some people use their freezers or refrigerators as impromptu fire safes. Most refrigerator units are sufficiently insulated to survive a fire, and they do not usually attract thieves in the way a regular safe may.

Protect your loved ones. Start My Estate Plan
Where Can I Find a Last Will & Testament?

References

Resources

Related articles

How to Read a Last Will & Testament

The grim-faced lawyer gathers interested parties in a tense circle, then opens the sealed envelope containing the will and begins to read it into the silence. This scene occurs in television sitcoms more often than real life. No jurisdiction requires a public reading of a will, yet all states permit public access to probate files. After the testator's demise, the court supervises her will's probate. Any member of the public can read her last will and testament in the county courthouse.

What Can One Do if a Will Is Missing & the Lawyer Who Drafted the Will Isn't Practicing?

If your loved one left his last will and testament with his attorney for safekeeping, the attorney can’t toss the will into a trash bin when he decides to retire or close his office. Not only do the laws in most states prohibit this, lawyers have an ethical responsibility to safeguard their clients’ documents. However, this might not do you much good if you can’t find the attorney to ask where he placed the will. You'll have to do a bit of detective work instead.

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.

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

Related articles

Where to Get the Last Will & Testament of a Relative

When a relative dies, his executor, you or another family member will need to find the will and file it with the ...

Where Are Wills Kept?

When a person, known as a testator, executes a will, he usually stores it in a secure location not readily available to ...

How to Find a Last Will & Testament of a Deceased Loved One

When a person dies, the representative of his estate needs to be able to put all his affairs in order in accordance ...

How to Find a Will Left by a Deceased Relative

When a relative dies, finding the will often takes a backseat to funeral preparations and other urgent matters. To ...

Browse by category
Ready to Begin? GET STARTED