A will is an essential legal document that determines the future course of all procedures. It answers a lot of critical questions, such as who stands to inherit someone's assets and who was appointed executor of the estate.
People keep their wills in all kinds of places: in a safe at home, at the local court, or at their attorney's office. Technology has made it easier to find a will online.
How to find a will online for free
Your first step is an online search of the county probate court's website. This court governs inheritance matters in the county where the person last lived. Do this before calling their lawyer or searching their home.
This institution is only called a probate court in some counties. It may be referred to as a district court, a surrogate's court, a superior court, or even an orphan's court.
A pressing question: am I on the will?
When a loved one who had assets passes away, it's perfectly normal to wonder if you are on the will. You're even more likely to wonder, "how do I find out if I'm on a will" if you have wealthy relatives you're no longer in touch with.
You might not find out if they died. What happens if you're on the will, but you don't get your share?
Some states or countries require people to file wills with a court. As mentioned, you can check public records to see if a will has been filed and whether you were named as a beneficiary. Court records are public.
You can also use a data broker. These services aggregate all the information available in public records, and you will get it much quicker than if you do a manual search.
Alternatively, you can wait for a notification. If you believe you may be named in someone's will, you can wait for the executor of the will to contact you. The executor is responsible for administering the will and distributing the assets to the beneficiaries, so they will contact you if you are named in the will.
When does the will become a public record?
The will becomes a public record when someone passes away, not before. When someone dies, the court opens the will (if they left one) and makes changes to the file to reflect the court's actions. Search the probate court's docket online for relevant details, such as when the person filed the will, when the court opened and probated it, etc.
You'll be asked to enter the person's first and last name and birthdate. You cannot see the full file online, though. You have to go down to the court in person for this. In addition, remember that not all people who leave wills file them with a court.
If visiting the court in person isn't feasible, you can request the will by mail or fax. You will have to pay a small copying fee either way.
Use the US Will Registry
If you don't have time to deal with the matter but feel frustrated by it, you can contact the US Will Registry. This online search portal accesses a national will register office. It can provide information about where a person's will is located, relevant contact details, and the essence of their final estate documents. The Registry has files from all over the world going back more than 50 years.
It's important to remember that not everyone chooses to disclose the details of their will, and they have the right to keep this information private. If you were not named in someone's will, it does not necessarily mean that they did not care about you or appreciate your relationship. You may also choose to contest the will.