How To Find Out If Someone Has a Will

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If you are named as an heir, executor, or trustee in someone’s will, it is critical that you understand whether or not they have created a trust. 

There are several methods for determining whether or not someone has left a will. Many people prefer to store their will in a secure location, such as a bank’s safety deposit box. 

If you know where the deceased person kept their essential documents, you may be able to locate the will in that location. 

Additionally, you can inquire with the person’s lawyer or accountant to determine whether or not they are aware of the existence of a will. 

Finally, you can ask the court in the jurisdiction where the individual formerly resided. Let’s take a closer look at how this can be accomplished.

Are Wills Public Record?

When a person dies, a will specifies how their assets will be distributed after they have passed. The signatures of the individual and two witnesses are required for a will to be considered valid. As soon as a person passes away, their will is made public. 

A copy of the will may be obtained from the court upon request by anyone. Providing a copy of a will may incur a charge from the court. However, there are a few exceptions to this rule. 

For example, if the individual passed away within the last three years, it is possible that the will won’t be made public. 

Additionally, certain individuals may request that the court seal the will, which would prevent anyone from viewing it. 

Can You Look Up Someone’s Will Online?

While a lot of information is available online these days, there are still some things that should be kept private. One of those things is the will of a person. 

Because a person’s will is considered confidential, it is impossible to look it up online, so doing a people search lookup will not provide any results.

Instead, when someone passes away, the only way to view their will is to go through the probate process, which is how a will is filed with the court after they have passed away. 

The will then becomes a matter of public record at that point. However, there are some restrictions on who has access to the will itself, even in this case. For example, only those who are interested (such as beneficiaries) can ask to see the will in question.

How To Find Out If a Will Exists: 7 Methods

1. Ask Family and Friends

The first step in finding out if a will exists is to ask family and friends. If the deceased were close with their family, then there is a good chance that they told them about their will. 

However, even if the deceased were not close with their family, they may still have told a friend about their will. 

Therefore, it is also worth checking with any close friends of the deceased to see if they know anything about a will. If the deceased did not have any close friends, then it may be necessary to check with distant relatives or acquaintances. 

Once all potential sources of information have been exhausted, then it may be necessary to check with the court or the deceased’s lawyer.

2. Contact Their Attorney

When attempting to determine whether or not a will exists, one of the best places to look is with the person’s attorney. It is possible that the attorney was involved in the preparation of the will or was at least aware of its existence. 

If the individual did not have an attorney, the individual’s next of kin should be contacted to arrange for representation. 

The existence of a will and the will’s contents would almost certainly be known to the heirs. Additionally, if the will was filed in court, a copy of it may be kept on file there. 

It is also possible to hire a professional to conduct a search for the will if all other options have been exhausted. However, this option can be expensive, and it is not guaranteed to be successful in all cases.

3. Search a Will Registry

Another way to discover the existence of a will is to search a will registry. A will registry is a database of wills that have been filed with the court. 

The registry will usually include the name of the testator, the date of the will, and the name of the executor. To access the registry, you will need to contact the probate court in the county where the decedent lived. 

Once you have located the appropriate court, you can request a search of the will registry. The court may charge a small fee for conducting the search. 

If a will is found, you will be provided with a copy of it. If no will is found, then you can assume that the decedent died intestate.

4. Visit Surrogate’s Court

Another great place to start your search is at the local Surrogate’s Court. This is the court that handles probate matters, and they will likely have records of any wills that have been filed. 

You can typically search for these records online or visit the courthouse in person. However, if you find a will on file, you must obtain a copy from the court before viewing it. 

There is usually a small fee for this service. Once you have a copy of the will, you will be able to determine who the executor is and what assets are being left to beneficiaries. 

If no will is found, then the estate will likely need to go through probate.

5. Inquire At The Probate Court

Given that probate courts are tasked with overseeing the distribution of a deceased person’s assets, it stands to reason that this would be the best place to look for a will. 

All wills filed with the probate court will be kept on file by the court, so if a will exists, it should be included in this section. 

You can usually find these records online or go to the courthouse and ask for them in person.

Of course, this presumes that the deceased person died with assets subject to probate at their death. Otherwise, there is a good chance there will not be a will on file.

6. Search Safe Deposit Box of the Decedent

A safe deposit box is one of the first places to look if you suspect that a will may have been left behind by the deceased. 

This person is typically designated as the executor of the will (the person responsible for carrying out the deceased’s wishes). They will normally have access to the safe deposit box. 

Checking the box is an excellent way to determine whether or not a will exists and gain an understanding of the deceased’s final wishes if they were known. 

However, note that not all wills are kept in safe deposit boxes, so if you don’t find a will in a safe deposit box, it doesn’t necessarily mean that one doesn’t exist.

7. Search the Residence of the Decedent  

Wills are frequently kept in a secure location, such as a filing cabinet until they are needed. 

If you are unsure of where to look, you may want to inquire with other family members or close friends to see if they know its location. 

You can begin distributing the estate according to the deceased’s wishes as soon as you have located the last will and testament. 

You should look for the will even if you are not explicitly named as a beneficiary because it may contain information about your loved one’s final wishes, even if you are not named as such.

Frequently Asked Questions

Will I be notified if I am in a will? 

According to the law of the jurisdiction in which the will was created, the answer to this question is “it depends.” For example, in some states, the testator (the person who created the will) must send notices to all beneficiaries named in the will. 

On the other hand, other states do not require the testator to provide the notification. Therefore, it is up to the beneficiaries to determine whether or not they have been included in a will.

Who contacts beneficiaries of a will? 

Upon a person’s death, their will must be administered through the court system, which is a legal process that includes identifying and gathering the deceased person’s assets, among other things. 

The executor of the will is in charge of overseeing the probate process, but they may choose to enlist the assistance of a probate attorney to assist them with the process. 

Once the probate process is completed, the executor will contact the beneficiaries to inform them of the nature of their inheritance.

How long after a person dies will beneficiaries be notified? 

After a person dies, notifying beneficiaries can take several weeks. First, the estate executor will need to track down all of the beneficiary’s contact information. 

Then, they will need to draft a formal notice and send it out by certified mail. Once the beneficiaries have been notified, they will have a certain amount of time to file any claims against the estate. Finally, the executor will distribute the assets according to the will.

What happens if a person named in a will is deceased?

If a person named in a will has passed away, a few different options are available. First and foremost, if the individual was explicitly named as an heir or beneficiary, their share of the estate will generally be distributed to their own heirs or beneficiaries. 

Second, if the deceased person was not specifically named in the will but would have been included under the terms of the will, their share of the estate will generally pass to their own heirs and the deceased person’s heirs.

How do lawyers know when someone dies?

When someone dies, their lawyer is usually notified by the estate’s executor. The executor is responsible for carrying out the deceased person’s wishes, as outlined in their will. 

If the deceased did not have a will, the executor is responsible for distributing the estate’s assets according to state law. 

Once the lawyer has been notified of the death, they will begin the process of winding up the deceased person’s affairs and working through the process.

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Bottom Line

If you want to find out if someone has a will, your best bet is to ask them directly. If they don’t want to tell you or are no longer alive, there are a few other ways to find out, but ultimately it may be up to chance whether or not you can locate the document.

If the person who died was married, their spouse is the first person who would inherit their estate, so it’s worth starting there. 

If you’re still having trouble, consider hiring a lawyer or an executor to help you track down the will and sort out the person’s final affairs.

bryan rucker
Written by Brian Williams

Brian is an expert in security, privacy, and information. He has studied background checks, criminal, people search, and such topics over the last 5 years. He is also an avid writer and enjoys sharing his knowledge through this blog. Read more of Brian's articles.