Can I Find Someone's Will?

Written by J. Hirby and Fact Checked by The Law Dictionary Staff  

If you are a beneficiary of an estate, you may want a copy of someone's will for a number of reasons. Can I find someone's will? Here is the answer.

Will is Personal Property While Owner is Alive

While someone is alive, his last will and testament is personal property. Usually, there will be a copy of the will stored with the individual's attorney to be sent to the executor when the owner dies. The executor is responsible for making the will public for the sake of the named beneficiaries. Some states require an executor to make the will public in probate court.

Unfortunately, due to greed or unforeseen circumstances, the normal process may be difficult to establish. It is wise for an individual, who may be a beneficiary, to get a copy of the will for 1) personal reasons due to emotional attachment to the deceased and 2) legal reasons to protect the rights of inheritance.

Matter of Public Record

The probate court is responsible for distribution of certain financial assets of the deceased person's estate. Once the executor delivers the will to the probate court, the will becomes a matter of public record. Anyone can make a telephone call, send a fax or write a letter to the appropriate probate court to receive a copy.

Which Probate Court Has Jurisdiction?

The probate court in the place where the deceased person had his residence or in which he owned property has jurisdiction. Many probate courts will have online websites where a beneficiary can search using the deceased person's name.

What if the estate has not been sent to probate?

Probate court is not necessary for the distribution of certain types of financial assets, like joint accounts and insurance. These can be transferred directly to the beneficiaries. Thus, if all of the deceased's property consists of non-probate financial instruments, then probate legal action is not necessary.

If the will has not been sent to probate, then the beneficiary should contact the executor of the will to receive a copy. The executor has a legal duty to make the will known to beneficiaries. Named beneficiaries have the legal right to see the will and can initiate a lawsuit to enforce said right.

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