When a relative passes away, you may be their only remaining next of kin, or their spouse or other relatives may be too elderly to handle funeral arrangements or too mentally challenged to remember any information about a possible will. Therefore, it may fall to you to locate the will, if one exists.
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Determine if your deceased relative had a will and registered it. You can do this by speaking with the deceased's spouse or close friends first. If these people are unaware of a will, contact the probate court where your deceased relative lived. If a will was registered with that office, the court will have a copy of it for viewing.
Contact probate courts in any other cities where the decedent lived over the years if unable to locate a registered will in the last city of residence. Contact cities lived in more recently before pursuing cities from years earlier.
Access any safety deposit box at the decedent's bank for possible copies of the will. Also ask bank management if they have any information about a will's existence or the name of the decedent's attorney. Follow up with any attorney's name given, regardless of the type of work the attorney does, since the decedent may have been referred elsewhere for will preparation.
Review the decedent's home office, computer, filing cabinet, personal papers or safe for a copy of the will. If unable to locate a will in these areas, review the decedent's address book, Rolodex file, Palm Pilot or cell phone for the names of any attorneys that may have been used or contacted. Make contact with all attorneys listed.
Speak with the decedent's friends, other relatives, neighbours, church members, co-workers or business associates, as well as the decedent's hairdresser or barber, to exhaust all avenues in locating a possible will, or learning of one's existence or lack of existence.
Tips and warnings
- As you interact with your deceased relative's friends, neighbours, and personal and professional associates, be sure to give them your contact information in the event that they remember something later that will help you in the search for a will, or run into someone who also knew your loved one but may not have been contacted by you yet.
- Avoid sharing any information regarding plans for disposition of property, as it could result in an unwillingness on the part of others to aid in locating a will if neighbours or friends oppose the selling of the home or other proposed plans.
- Also avoid discussing the current schedule of anyone living in the decedent's home during this time, or the lack of anyone's presence, to eliminate potential burglaries.
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