When a family member dies, we all want to do everything we can to help make the grieving process as easy as possible. This is especially true if you know that the family member has left behind a last will and testament. Finding the will and making sure the family member’s last wishes are carried out is something many people see as a duty, as their obligation to do. But what happens if you cannot find the will? While each situation is different, there are some steps you can take if you are having difficulty finding this most important of documents.
Go from room to room.
In many situations, a lost will isn’t lost it all, it is simply undiscovered. If you haven’t been able to locate the last will and testament, you should plan on searching the deceased relative’s home by going room to room. Look in obvious places first, such as desk drawers and the home safe, but don’t forget to search under mattresses, in between the pages of books, and anywhere else your relative might have kept an important document. As you search through the house focus on one room at a time. Once you’re finished with that room, move on to the next.
Look for letterhead or business cards.
If you know your relative hired a lawyer to make the will, you should look for a business card or letters from the attorney’s office. Once you find these, contact the attorney and let him or her know that the family member has died and that you are having difficulty locating a copy of the will. If the attorney helped create the will, he or she will probably either have a copy or know where to locate the original.
Look for bank safe deposit keys or bank statements.
A lot of people will keep their important documents in a bank safe deposit box. If you find any keys, keep an eye out for those that have either numbers printed on them, have an attached number tag, or those that say “do not duplicate.” Most bank safe deposit keys are not labeled with the bank’s name. If you find a safe deposit box key, you should contact a local estate planning lawyer to ask about what you need to do to allow the bank to let you to look into the box to see if the will is present.
Go to probate court.
In some situations a lost will stays lost. Though this is an unfortunate situation, it can happen. If you believe the will has been lost, your next step will be to go to probate court and ask the court to open the estate without the will. This can be complicated, so you should contact a lawyer first for advice.
In the meantime, if you have created a will, make sure you take steps to get that document to those who need it when the time comes. You can also take the time to educate yourself about estate planning issues by attending one of our free seminars. We’ll have a number of seminars available in the coming months, so contact our office for registration details eerie