Within the court system, probate of a person's will after he has passed away represents the process of officially approving the dissolution of the estate left over. The court oversees the will on file. This allows a hearing for any challenges to the will, and the court approves the terms of the will absent any need for changes. Various parties may have an interest in the will of a person. Interested parties can include relatives, friends or even the media. Once probated, the will becomes a public file open to anyone to review. Requesting, viewing or copying involves using the court file access process.
- Skill level:
- Moderately Easy
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Wait for the given will to be filed into probate with the local court system. Look for a notice and required courtesy copy in the mail if you are known beneficiary, spouse or child. Contact the executor of the will to determine if you are named in the will.
Request that the will's executor provide you the date the will is to be probated in court if you are not a named beneficiary. Contact the local court clerk to confirm if the will was probated if the executor cannot provide you the information.
Request a copy of the filed will from the court clerk if the clerk's staff confirm the will has been submitted. Pay the associated certified copy fee in cash or by credit card as required by the clerk's office.
Go to your local court system website and click on court filings if the option is provided. Select "probate filings," and submit your case information in the court file search engine to pull up the related filings. Download the specific will and either save it to your computer or print it.
Visit the local courthouse if you do not have a computer to access the court files made public. Ask if it provides a public computer for file access. Log into the computer with the access information provided by the court clerk's staff.
Call the courthouse directly if you cannot visit it and do not have access to a computer. Request the file copy information and cost from the court clerk staff. Send your request by mail and in writing with the appropriate fee payment and return postage cost.
Tips and warnings
- Consult with a lawyer if you are not sure how to go about getting a copy of a will. For a small fee, a one-time consultation with an estate lawyer can answer a lot of basic questions about the probate process.
- Not every will is automatically probated in local courts. If, for example, an estate was shared jointly with a spouse, some jurisdictions don't require probate of the associated will. Instead, the property and estate become the sole ownership of the spouse unless specified differently in an official will. Only the will's executor would be required to notify someone differently.
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