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What to do if you can not find the decedent’s will

The single most important document to locate after a testator passes away is their will. Their will contains the testator’s last wishes, including instructions on how their estate should be managed, who should benefit from the estate and who is responsible for settling the estate.

Without the will, the testator’s last wishes may never be met. This can create a log of difficulties for family and friends who were expecting to benefit from an estate. Here is what you may be able to do if you can not locate the deceased’s will:

Locating a lost will through probate court

In some cases, a testator has filed their will with the probate court for safekeeping. A copy of this legal document can be requested if it was filed. However, this may require knowledge of where the testator filed their will. 

Submitting an older draft of a will

The testator may have made several wills during their life. If they did not revoke an older draft of a will, then this could be used in place of the lost will. However, if the will is clearly revoked, then it may not be valid. But, a beneficiary may contest an older draft of a will. 

What can happen if a will is lost?

If a will cannot be found, then the testator would die intestate. Intestate means the state is responsible for managing the deceased’s estate. They will likely name an executor and distribute assets to heirs. This often does not align with a testator’s last wishes, which is why it is important to find an original copy of a will.

Probate law can be confusing, especially when a will can not be found. Legal guidance could help provide options to obtain a copy of a will or navigate probate proceedings.