Getting A Copy Of A Last Will And Testament

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

As with any legal request, getting a copy of someone's last will and testament depends on the details. While it is impossible to request to look at a living person's will, also known as a living will, there are instances where you can request a copy of a deceased individual's last will.

Probate Court Filing

If the last will has been filed in probate court, getting a copy is as simple as going to the courthouse and requesting a copy or calling and mailing a self-addressed stamped envelope along with necessary payment for the will. The only hitch is figuring out where the death certificate and other documents were filed.

After someone dies, one of the tasks of the executor of that person's estate is to file the last will and testament in probate court. The executor has the responsibility to determine if the will is actually the last will, and this may take some time. This means that while there is a good chance you can find a deceased individual's last will if they passed away some time ago, it may be more difficult if the death was recent.

Getting a Copy if the Last Will Was Not Filed in Probate Court

The only people with a legal right to view the last will before it becomes a matter of public record are those who are mentioned as beneficiaries. Ideally, the executor of the estate will inform those mentioned in the will that they are beneficiaries.

If you don't know who the executor of the will is, you can look up the deceased's death certificate. This is a matter of public record, and it names the executor. You can then contact the executor and ask if you are a beneficiary and if you can see a copy of the last will.

If the executor doesn't respond or refuses to show you the will, you may need to take legal action through the probate courts to force the executor to file the will in probate court so it becomes a matter of public record. Depending on where you live, an executor may be required by law to file a will in probate within a certain amount of time following the estate holder's death. Be sure to consult with a probate lawyer to know your options. Depending on what you want to find from the will, certain legal actions may be more appropriate than others.

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