Where to Get the Last Will & Testament of a Relative

By A.L. Kennedy

When a relative dies, his executor, you or another family member will need to find the will and file it with the probate court. If the will has already been filed with the court, you may be able to get a copy of the last will and testament from several different sources. Knowing where to get the last will and testament of a relative can prevent surprises in probate.

Home Records

According to the Federal Citizen Information Center, many people store important personal records such as wills in the home, often in a household safe or a fire safe. You may even be able to find the will in your relative's freezer. According to attorney Richard D. Silvester, the freezer can serve as a low-cost fire safe, and is not a place many thieves look, which helps keep a last will and testament safe.

Safe Deposit Boxes

The Federal Citizen Information Center recommends that people store the original of their will in a safe deposit box to prevent its accidentally being stolen or destroyed. If your relative had a safe deposit box, the will may be inside, along with other important documents such as life insurance policies and deeds to property. Before you try to open the safe deposit box, however, consult an attorney in your state. Some states require banks to seal the safe deposit box automatically when its owner dies. If this is the case, you will need a court order to retrieve your relative's will from the safe deposit box.

Protect your loved ones. Start My Estate Plan

Probate Courts

Many states allow a person who makes a last will and testament to file it with their county's probate court for a small fee. If your relative filed his will with the probate court while he was still alive, the court will have the will for safekeeping, but will not automatically open a probate case. Visit the probate court and ask whether your relative's will is available. You may wish to consult an attorney first, since each state's laws differ regarding who may view a will filed with the probate court after the will's owner has passed away, according to the Cleveland Law Library Association.

The Executor

If your relative's will has already been filed and a probate estate opened in the probate court, you have a right in all 50 states to see a copy of the will if you are listed as a beneficiary or if you would have inherited from your relative if no will existed. Usually, the executor or personal representative of the estate sends notice to every beneficiary once the probate process opens in court. However, you may ask the executor to show you a copy of the will whether or not you have received notice.

Protect your loved ones. Start My Estate Plan
How to Find a Will Left by a Deceased Relative



Related articles

How to Get a Copy of a Will in the State of New Jersey

A will is a document created by a person that sets forth that person's wishes for the distribution of his property after he dies. To give legal effect to the will of a New Jersey resident, the will must be filed with a New Jersey Surrogate's Court. After the will has been filed with the Surrogate's Court, it becomes a public record, accessible by any interested individual. Obtaining a copy of a will filed in a New Jersey Surrogate's Court requires filing a records request with the appropriate New Jersey Surrogate's Court.

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.

What Do You File When the Executor Refuses to Open Up an Estate?

A probate estate is administered by a “personal representative,” which is a term that includes both executors and administrators. The personal representative is typically called an executor when the decedent left a will; the personal representative is called an administrator when the decedent’s estate is probated without a will. Both types of personal representatives have similar duties and responsibilities. These include collecting the decedent’s assets, paying creditors, and distributing the remaining assets to the decedent’s heirs or beneficiaries. If an executor refuses to open an estate, you may be able to step in to ensure the estate is probated.

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

Related articles

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

The original of a last will and testament should be filed with the probate court once its owner passes away. However, ...

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 Person

When an individual dies, he leaves behind an estate containing all of the property he owned at the time of his death. ...

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 ...

Browse by category
Ready to Begin? GET STARTED