How to Find a Will
Getting a copy of a will after a death is an unfamiliar experience to most people. Families may not be certain if their loved one had a will, relatives aren’t sure if they’ve been named, and many are unaware that the probate process can take years to complete. The good news is, finding a will isn’t too difficult and there are multiple ways to get a hold of one.
How to find out if a will exists
As a family member, it’s not necessarily your responsibility to locate a will after a loved one passes away. That being said, if you’d like to know how to find out if a will exists, there are some common places you’ll want to check.
Ask the person if they have a will in advance. Asking your loved one if they have a will and where it’s located may seem like an obvious solution, but it’s something many people don’t speak about. Having knowledge of a will can help families better understand their loved one’s wishes after they pass away. If your loved one is still alive, it’s okay to ask if they have a will.
Check the safety deposit box or safes. Many individuals keep private and important documents locked in a safe or safe deposit box. If you have the ability to open one of these boxes or have access to a safe, check through it to see if there’s a will or last testament. If you’re unable to locate a will, check through the documents to see if your loved one had an attorney who you can get in touch with.
Contact attorneys. It’s possible that your loved one has a will and simply didn’t tell the family about the existence of the will. If they had one, it’s possible that they spoke to their attorney about it or that their attorney knows of its existence. If you know who their attorney is, you can contact their offices directly. If you’re unsure who their attorney is, try to check through their documents to see if there’s any receipts or other type of correspondence between them and their attorney.
Contact the probate court. If you’re looking for how to get a copy of a will after death, contacting the probate court is a good step to take. The probate court will have a public record of the will if there is one on file and you can usually request a copy of the will when visiting. (The exception to this is if a will was sealed, which usually takes place after probate so it’s likely not something you need to worry about.) The probate court may charge you to print out a copy of the will, so be sure to check their fees before visiting.
How do you find out if you’re named in a will?
Wait for contact. You will be contacted if you are named in a will so there aren’t any steps for you to take when a will is going through probate. The executor of the estate will get in touch with you to notify you you’ve been named in a will.
Look up the will with the probate court. You can ask the probate court for a copy of a will to read through it yourself and find out if you’re named. You’ll want to contact the probate court in the county that your loved one resided in. Depending on when you contact them, the probate process might not have started, so check back a few times to see if a will has been filed.
Contact the executor. If you know who is responsible for the estate, you can contact them and ask if you’re named in the will. You can also contact the probate court and request the executor’s information so that you can get in touch. It’s also a good idea to request a copy of the will, even if the executor tells you that you’re not named.
Contact the family. Another method is to get in touch with the family, though you should be careful with this option if you have a history of drama or difficulty in dealing with family members. (For example, you'd still want to get in touch with the executor or administrator eventually, even if you're told by another family member that you're not named in the will.)
How to find someone’s will online
If you want to find someone’s will online, there are few options available to you.
Use the probate court’s online service. Some counties have probate court records and dockets available for viewing online. Some of these websites will still charge you to search through the records, so having information such as the case number or filing date can help you narrow down the entry and avoid fees (for example, some counties charge you to look up probate records by name but won’t charge you to look it up by case number). Do an online search for the probate court’s online records or database and see if you can locate the will that way. (You will likely still need to request a copy of the will in a physical format.)
Contact the executor and ask for a copy. The executor of the state can send you an online copy of the will if they have one available. You can get the executors’ information from your family or from the probate court if they were assigned by the courts.
Use a search service. There are many websites that allow you to find a will online or get a copy of a will online, but many of them charge a small fee for searching databases. Since wills are public records, if a will is filed, it’s entirely possible for you to locate it yourself by asking the probate court. Locating and talking with the probate court isn’t a super difficult or time consuming process and can save you from being charged by one of these online services. That being said, if you feel the need to get a copy of a will online, going with one of these online services can save you a small amount of time.
Are wills public record?
Wills are considered public records, accessible by the public. To find a will in public records, visit or contact the relevant probate court and ask to view the records.
Wills can be sealed in special circumstances, but this has to be approved by a judge and is usually done at the end of probate.
Are probate records public?
Probate records are public and can be accessed by anyone. Some county probate courts have different set ups, but usually you can call, visit, or write to a probate court to request records.
Sample letter requesting copy of a will
If you’re unsure where to start when it comes to requesting a will or writing to a probate court and requesting records, here is an excellent template.
Searching for a will is one of the last things a family member wants to do after losing someone. You can make it easier on your loved ones by starting a free will online and by sharing your final wishes. Sharing your final wishes is an easy way to prepare your loved one’s and reduce the stress they might experience after you pass away. Family members can rest easy knowing that they respected what your wishes were and did what you wanted them to do.