How to Ask if You Are in a Last Will & Testament

By Teo Spengler

You need neither legal language nor formalized procedure to ask if you inherit under a will; who and how you ask depends on the stage of the proceedings. A will is a person's written expression of her intentions for her property after death. The testator names heirs, an executor and one or more guardians for her minor children in a last testament. After her death, the executor takes over the property, opens probate and prepares the estate for distribution.

Step 1

Ask the testator herself, during her lifetime, whether you are an heir in her will. Realize, before asking, that a testator's will is private and personal while she is alive. She changes it at will, either by a codicil amending a bequest or else by a superseding will. She voids it by crossing out the terms of the will or ripping it up. The only legal manner of determining whether a living testator names you in her will is to ask her directly.

Step 2

Ask the executor -- after the testator's death -- whether the will contains a bequest for you. An executor is the person charged with steering the last testament through the probate process. The court supervises the executor's management of the estate, initially determining whether the will is valid, then requiring and reviewing reports until distribution. An executor owes the highest possible legal duty, termed a fiduciary duty, to the heirs and must inform them expediently of their bequests. Call the executor and ask directly whether the testator named you an heir.

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Step 3

Locate the executor by locating the will. If you do not know the executor's identify, find the court that probates the will. Generally the court in the county in which the testator resided has probate jurisdiction. Visit the court clerk's office during business hours. Provide the name and date of death of the deceased and request the probate file. The probated will is among the early filings. The will usually names an executor and, when it doesn't, the court appoints one. Locate the name and address of the executor in the file and contact him or simply look in the will to make the determination yourself.

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

References

Related articles

How to Ask the Executor for a Copy of the Will

An executor is the administrator of the estate of a deceased who is in charge of steering a last will and testament through probate. Her responsibility begins at the testator's death, and among her first duties is filing a petition for probate in the appropriate county. The will -- the testator's written description of how he wishes his estate distributed -- is a private document up until the date of death. Once the will is filed in probate, no confidentiality concerns impede an executor from providing will copies to interested parties.

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 Can I Get a Copy of a Will?

TV shows often portray a lawyer reading the last will and testament to the assembled family. In real life, you usually have to track down a copy of the will yourself. It is easier to get a copy of a will once the maker is dead. You can only see the will of a living person if she agrees to show it you. Once the maker is deceased, however, the will is generally filed with the court for probate. Like most court documents, the vast majority of probated wills are available for public viewing and copying.

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