How Can I Get a Copy of a Last Will & Testament?

By Bryan Driscoll, J.D.

How Can I Get a Copy of a Last Will & Testament?

By Bryan Driscoll, J.D.

Getting a copy of a last will and testament can be as simple as requesting to view it from the clerk. However, privacy can be an issue so there are certain steps you must follow to get a copy of it. A last will and testament is a legal document that lays out the wishes and desires of the person creating the will, who is referred to as the testator. While the testator is alive, a will is a private and revocable document that can be created by oneself, by using a skilled estate planning attorney.Woman in plaid shirt sifting through paperwork

How to Get a Copy of a Will

No one has any right to view someone's will while that person is alive. However, the testator is free to provide copies or tell others what is in the actual will if he or she wishes to share that information. Generally, close family members will share such details as they want their family to be aware of what is being given in the will and to whom.

After the testator dies, the will becomes public record and can be viewed by anyone. If you need to view a will, you can follow these steps to make sure you're not missing any details.

If the testator is still living, ask them for a copy. It is their right to say no. If the testator allows you to view a copy, respect their privacy by keeping the details confidential. A will is a personal and thoughtful legal document that should be treated with respect.

1. Get the probate file number.

Your first step in getting a copy of a will in probate is to get the probate file number. The court will only open probate after the testator has died.

You can call the probate clerk at the courthouse where probate has been opened and provide the testator's name. The clerk will give you the probate file number over the phone.

2. Go to the courthouse.

Now that you have the probate file number, you can go to the courthouse to request a viewing of the probate file, which includes the will. If you intend on requesting a copy of the will, you'll have to pay a nominal fee.

Once you arrive at the courthouse, you'll want to locate the probate clerk's office. In smaller courthouses, they may have several civil clerks covering multiple departments in one office. In larger courthouses, however, the probate clerk will be separate from others which their own office dedicated to such matters.

3. Request viewing and a copy of the will

When you speak with the probate clerk, they will ask you for the probate file number of the file you wish to view. The clerk will then locate the file and present it to you to view.

Many courthouses will have a special room set aside where you can view the file. This is a locked room and you're not allowed to remove the file from the room. When you're finished viewing the files, you can request that the clerk make a copy of the will for you. After paying the fee, you are free to leave with your copy of the will.


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