Understanding the Importance of Finding a Will
When a loved one passes away, finding their will can provide a sense of closure and guidance. A will is a legal document that outlines a person’s wishes for the distribution of their assets after they die. It can also provide instructions for funeral arrangements and designate guardians for minor children. Without a will, the deceased person’s assets will be distributed according to state laws, which may not align with their wishes. Therefore, finding a will can be crucial in ensuring that the deceased person’s wishes are honored and that their loved ones receive their intended inheritance.
Steps to Take Before Searching for a Will Online
Before starting your search for a deceased person’s will online, there are a few important steps you should take:
Contact the deceased person’s lawyer: If the deceased person had a lawyer, they may have entrusted their will to them. Contact the lawyer to see if they have a copy of the will or any information about where it may be located.
Check with the probate court: The probate court is responsible for handling the distribution of a deceased person’s assets. Contact the court in the county where the person lived to see if they have a copy of the will on file.
Look for physical copies: The will may be stored with other important documents, such as insurance policies or deeds, in a safe or lockbox. Check these locations before starting an online search.
Taking these steps before searching for a will online can save you time and frustration, as well as increase the likelihood of finding the will.
How to Search for a Will Online
If you have exhausted other options and are ready to search for a will online, there are a few steps you can take:
Search for public records: Some states make wills available as public records, which means they can be accessed online. Check the website of the state or county where the deceased person lived to see if they have a searchable database of wills.
Use a search engine: Search for the deceased person’s name along with keywords such as “will,” “estate,” or “probate.” This can help you locate any online obituaries or public notices that may include information about the will.
Check online databases: There are a number of online databases that specialize in wills and probate records, such as Ancestry.com, FindMyPast.com, and Archives.gov. These databases may require a subscription or fee to access, but can be a valuable resource for finding a will.
It is important to note that not all wills are available online, and the search process can be time-consuming. If you are unable to find the will online, consider contacting a lawyer who specializes in estate planning or probate to help you locate the document.
What to Do if You Cannot Find a Will Online
If you have searched for a deceased person’s will online and have not been able to locate it, there are still options available:
Contact the deceased person’s relatives and friends: They may have information about the will or know where it is located.
Hire a private investigator: A private investigator can help track down the will, particularly if it was not filed with the probate court.
Check with financial institutions: The deceased person may have stored the will with their bank or financial advisor.
Consider alternative documents: If you are unable to locate the will, other documents such as trusts, beneficiary designations, and life insurance policies may provide information about the deceased person’s wishes.
It is important to note that if a will cannot be located, the distribution of the deceased person’s assets will be determined by state law. In this case, it is recommended to contact a lawyer who specializes in estate planning or probate to help navigate the legal process.
Other Ways to Locate a Deceased Person’s Will
In addition to searching for a will online, there are other ways to locate a deceased person’s will:
Contact the executor: If the deceased person named an executor in their will, that person will be responsible for carrying out the terms of the will. Contacting the executor may provide information about the location of the will.
Check with the deceased person’s employer or business partners: If the deceased person owned a business or was employed, their employer or business partners may have information about the will.
Look for a copy of the will: The deceased person may have given a copy of their will to a trusted friend or family member. Check with those close to the deceased person to see if they have a copy of the will.
Check with the state where the deceased person lived previously: If the deceased person lived in another state previously, check with the probate court in that state to see if they have a copy of the will.
Locating a will can be a time-consuming and emotionally draining process, but it is important to ensure that the deceased person’s wishes are honored and their loved ones receive their intended inheritance. If you are having trouble locating a will, consider contacting a lawyer who specializes in estate planning or probate to help you navigate the process.