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How to locate a will of a deceased person

Updated April 17, 2017

A will is a legal document that names the inheritors of the will writer's property. Locating a person's will after they're dead can be difficult, but it's not impossible.

Search through personal belongings if you have permission to do so (if you are the widow, widower, or child of the deceased, for example). Look in a safe deposit box at the deceased person's bank. Ask other family members or close friends. If you find a will, by law, you must notify the local county courthouse.

Contact the deceased person's lawyer to see if a will exists.

Contact the executor of the will. The deceased person named the executor, whose duty is to execute the instructions of the will, and by law, the executor must file the will with a local county courthouse.

Go to the local county courthouse if you don't know who the executor is. Ask if the deceased person's will is on file. Once they've been processed at the courthouse, wills are available for public viewing.

Wait for the will to go through probate. Not all wills are probated, but many are still required by law to be filed at the courthouse. If the will has to go through the probate process, it may take several weeks. Contact the courthouse to see if a will was probated.

Contact a lawyer if you can't find a will. A lawyer might be able to help find a will. However, it is possible no will was ever created. Many people do not create a will, including people who own very large estates.

Tip

Probating a will means that the executor of the will is proving that she is the person named executor and has permission to execute the tasks in the will.

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About the Author

Christina Helm has been writing professionally since 2007. She has contributed to several regional newspapers and online publications.