How to Find the Executor of a Will for Distribution of Property

By Teo Spengler

Although common law required different instruments for bequeathing real and personal property, current law eliminates the distinction. A modern testator devises all her property under one will and names an executor to steer the will through probate. The executor administers the will, collecting assets, locating heirs, paying estate debts and distributing estate assets. The probate court supervises this process, requiring regular inventories, valuations and reports. An executor owes the highest possible duty of care to the estate heirs which precludes any dishonesty or self-dealing.

Step 1

Determine which court has probate jurisdiction over the last will and testament of the deceased. Generally, this is the probate court in the county where the deceased kept her primary residence before death. Primary residence is a legal term, determined largely on a person's intent, so it is not always easy to ascertain. Look first in the county in which the testator lived just before death. Call the court and ask whether the will is in probate there. If not, try other counties in which the deceased kept homes.

Step 2

Go to the appropriate court during business hours and find the probate clerk's office. In some jurisdictions, the civil file window handles all civil files including probate. In others, a separate family law window manages probate files. Provide the clerk with the probate file number, if you have it. If not, provide the full name and date of death of the deceased. The clerk will locate the file and instruct you whether to review it at the window or in a separate reading area.

Protect your loved ones. Start My Estate Plan

Step 3

Look through the probate file. Among the early filings is a petition filed by the executor asking the court to accept probate of the will and to grant her something called "letters testamentary," which constitutes permission to administer the estate. Obtain the name, address and phone number of the executor from this document. Read further to ascertain whether the court issued letters testamentary and whether any heir challenged the executor. If the court dismissed the executor, note the name and phone number of a successor executor.

Protect your loved ones. Start My Estate Plan
How to Find Out If You Are a Beneficiary in a Final Will When a Relative Dies


Related articles

How to Find Out If You Were Included in a Will When Someone Dies

A death in the family brings sorrow, and it also brings complications over inheritance. A last will and testament is the deceased family member's final communication to the world about her life, and few lines are more painful than that dividing the heirs from the disinherited. Although the will executor eventually contacts heirs to distribute assets, this can be months, and even years, after the date of death, depending upon the complexity of the estate. You can find out the will terms far earlier by making a short trip to the county courthouse.

How to Find Out If a Deceased Person Had a Will

During a person's lifetime, the only way to discover if he has a will is to ask. The existence of a will becomes public information, however, when the testator dies. The executor files the last will and testament with the court where a probate judge determines the validity of the will and supervises will administration. Probate documents are open to the public for viewing. Once you determine which court probates a deceased person's estate, a look in the court probate file confirms or disproves the existence of a will.

How to Find Wills

Wills not only provide information about heirs and inheritance, but also help those tracing family history or establishing a chain of property ownership. Prior to a testator's death, his will is a private document and you "find" it only with his permission. The court does not open wills of a living person to public review even if the testator filed them with the court for safe keeping. From the date the court accepts a will for probate, however, the will becomes part of the court file and accessible to the public. The more recent the probate, the easier the will to locate.

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

Related articles

How to Find Deceased Family Wills

A will is a written document that identifies a person's property and heirs, and can therefore provide useful ...

How to Find Out If Someone Left a Will for Probate

A will is a written document that specifies how a person wishes his estate to be divided. After the testator dies, the ...

How to Find the Executor of a Will

When a testator drafts her will, she not only names individuals to inherit her property, but also appoints someone to ...

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 ...

Browse by category
Ready to Begin? GET STARTED