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What happens if you can’t find someone’s will?

On Behalf of | Oct 30, 2023 | Probate |

Your loved one made a will and gave you a copy – but they put their original document “somewhere safe.”

Unfortunately, they never told anybody where the original document could be found, and that has left you in a fix because you need that document for the probate court. Otherwise, you’ll have to go through a lot more work to prove that the will wasn’t revoked.

It’s time to pull out all the stops and look everywhere

You know your loved one best, but people do tend to keep important documents in certain places. Here are some suggestions about where you should look:

  • In a home office: If your loved one had a regular spot where they wrote out their bills, handled their correspondence or stored important papers, that’s the first place to look. Check through desks, filing cabinets and any file boxes they may have sitting around.
  • A home safe: Home safes can be hidden in a wall, built into the floor or tucked into a dark corner. You may not realize that your loved one even had one. Check under rugs, in closets and behind things hanging on the wall to make sure you’re not overlooking it.
  • A safety deposit box: If you find the key to a safety deposit box, that could very well be the will’s storage spot. (Unfortunately, you may not be able to get ready access to what’s inside that box without a court order.)
  • Their attorney’s office: Some attorneys offer document storage for their clients, so look at the copy to see who helped your loved one prepare their will and make a call.
  • A storage unit: People put all sorts of things that they don’t have immediate use for in self-storage facilities, including documents.
  • The County Clerk’s Office: Testators always have the option, for a nominal fee, to store their original will with the County Clerk’s Office in their county of residence. No search for an original will is complete until you’ve checked there.

If you’re ultimately unable to find your loved one’s original documents and all you have is a copy, don’t despair. While it may be more difficult to prove a copy of a will is valid in probate court, witnesses and sworn testimony can often be used to back up your position. Seeking qualified legal guidance can help you assess the situation and figure out what your next steps should be given the unique ins and outs of your situation.