How to Locate a Will of a Deceased Person

By Anna Assad

You must find the will of a deceased person to start probate -- the legal proceedings used to settle a person's final affairs and divide his estate. Ideally, the testator should always provide a copy of the will to his named executor, but if this wasn't done, you may need to be creative in where you start looking.

Step 1

Contact the deceased person's attorney. The attorney may have the original will for safekeeping or know if another attorney, such as an estate attorney who drafted the will for the deceased, does. Look through the deceased person's financial records and documents if you're unsure who her attorney was. Cashed checks or legal papers may identify her attorney.

Step 2

Talk to the deceased person's close family members and friends. Although they might not know where the will is, they may be able to identify places the deceased stored important documents. Check any suggested places.

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Step 3

Check around the deceased's home for a safe deposit box key. Keys vary in shape and color but typically don't have grooves. Contact the banks the deceased did business with if you find a key to see if he had a box. File a petition in the local probate court for an order to open the box.

Step 4

Visit the surrogate or probate court of all counties the deceased person owned real estate in and previously lived in. Ask the clerk to check if a will was filed by the deceased person for safekeeping.

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Can an Executor Endorse the Deceased's Check?


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What Is an Executor Deed?

An executor’s deed is used to transfer real property from the estate of a deceased person to an heir pursuant to the terms of a will. It is similar to an administrative deed, which is used when a person dies without a will. The executor of an estate is the person appointed in the will to marshal the deceased's assets, determine what debts and liabilities need to be paid out of estate funds and ultimately distribute the assets to designated heirs or beneficiaries.

What Is the Meaning of "Executor of an Estate"?

An executor is a person who manages the estate of the deceased, known as the decedent. Also called a personal representative, the executor is typically named in a will. A judge chooses and appoints an estate administrator if a decedent dies intestate, or without a will, or does not name an executor in his will. An estate administrator basically has duties and powers equivalent to an executor. Each state has individual laws regarding estates and executorships.

Can the Executor of a Will Spend the Money Any Way He Wants?

When someone dies and leaves a will, the will instructs how the deceased's property should be distributed. Likely, it will name the individual responsible for managing the estate, the estate’s personal representative, or executor. The executor has a duty to prudently manage the estate so that debts are paid and each beneficiary receives his due distribution.

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