Can You Get a Copy of a Will Before Someone Dies?

By Heather Frances J.D.

A will is not actually permanent until its writer, called a testator, dies. Thus, while a testator can allow others to read his will, he can also keep it a secret. Even if he allows others to read a version of his will or files it with a local court, he can change it at any time prior to his death.

Filing a Will

In many states, like Texas, testators can file their wills with a local government office, such as a county clerk. However, this is typically optional. Filing the will gives the testator a safe place to store his will, ensuring it won't be lost somewhere amongst his other papers after his death. A testator may even be able to include contact information for those he wants notified after his death that his will is on file. These individuals can retrieve the filed copy of the will after the testator dies and submit the will to probate. However, filing a will does not necessarily give others access to the document before the testator's death and procedures can vary greatly by state law.

Sharing a Will's Contents

A testator can keep his will completely private, not letting anyone other than a handful of neutral witnesses or an attorney see it. Generally, there is no way to force a testator to give up a copy of his will before he dies. However, a testator can choose to share copies with his loved ones so that the terms of the will do not come as a shock after his death. Testators are free to change the terms of the will, though, even after giving copies to others.

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


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Holographic Wills in Colorado

Your will can name someone to manage your estate, dictate who should inherit your property and even nominate guardians to look after your minor children when you die. However, your will cannot do any of these things if it is not valid under your state’s laws. Colorado allows holographic wills, but each must meet certain standards under Colorado law.

Is It Illegal to Copy Last Will & Testament Papers?

As long as you have the right to use the copy machine, no penalties attach to copying your last will and testament. In fact, it may be prudent for someone making a will to provide a copy of the document to her spouse, attorney and the person she names as executor. In most cases, however, the original will, not a copy, must be filed with the court for probate.

Is a Will Public Information After Death?

Many people keep their last will and testament secret while they are alive, hidden away in a safety deposit box or a personal safe. But unless the will is superseded by another, it loses its private status when the testator dies. Whether the will belongs to a celebrity or your grandmother, it is usually open to public viewing after death.

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