Are Wills in Ohio Public Record?

By Marie Murdock

Many people are concerned when they make a last will and testament that their wishes remain private. Generally, only you and your attorney -- as well as persons you authorize to view its contents -- will ever see the will prior to your death. After your death, however, your will generally becomes public record when it is recorded or filed for probate in an Ohio probate court.

Prior to Death

You may choose to place your original will in a safe deposit box for safekeeping, with only your designated executor allowed access to retrieve the will upon your death. Ohio also allows you to deposit your will with your local probate court for safekeeping. The will is not viewable by the public while it it deposited with the court, and only you may withdraw the will while you are alive. Upon deposit, you will designate on the will’s wrapper the name of the person to whom the court may deliver it after your death.

Presenting the Will

The executor named in your will should present the will, along with the required petitions and other documentation, to the probate court to begin probate proceedings after your death. Once the will is admitted to probate, the public may view its contents along with any court orders and other filed court documentation.

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Parties in Interest

Once probated, your will may convey any real property you owned prior to your death. Therefore, it is often necessary for a title examiner to view the will’s contents to determine the disposition of your real estate in order for a title company to insure any related transaction such as a sale of the property. Also, any heirs, whether or not they were devised property under the will, have the right to view its contents as they have a direct interest in the probate proceedings.


Some people choose to establish a revocable or irrevocable trust prior to their death. Their will may merely state that all of their property is devised to their pre-established trust. The contents of a trust agreement are generally not public record; therefore, this method of estate planning may prevent the disposition of estate property from being known by the general public.

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Are Probated Wills Public Record in the State of Alabama?


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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 information if, for example, you want to trace your ancestry or investigate a particular financial transaction. Effective after death, a will passes through a probate court where a judge oversees asset distribution according to the will's instructions. Therefore, when searching for the will of a deceased family member, start in the probate court that supervised its administration.

Does Probate Make a Will Public?

Many people cloak their wills in mystery, writing them in secret, hiding them in a wall safe or bank vault and refusing to breath a word about their intentions. But upon the testator's death, state law takes over. In order for the will to be effective, the person administering it -- termed the executor -- files it in probate court and authenticates the signature. When the will becomes part of a probate file, it is a public document, open to public review.

Viewing Last Wills & Testaments

A last will and testament is the written description of how the maker of the will -- called the testator -- intends to distribute her property at her death. Heirs receive a copy of the will at the testator's death, but family members and the curious public view it in the courthouse.

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