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Where Can I Find the Will?

October 12, 2023 Estate & Trust Administration

When a loved one passes away, the thought of honoring their final wishes is often on everyone’s mind. You might find yourself remembering final wishes they had shared with you prior to their passing. There may even be a Last Will and Testament expressing what those wishes were. However, you may not know where the will was placed for safekeeping. What steps should you take to find the will? 

You can begin your search by looking in the places your loved one kept other important paperwork, such as birth certificates, marriage licenses, deeds, title paperwork, etc. Be careful as you look through such paperwork. Not every will looks like you might imagine. Some wills, such as holographic wills, might be penned on a piece of paper; others might be bound, stapled, or included with other estate planning paperwork in a binder. Carefully look through all your loved one’s documents, perusing each page; so that you don’t miss anything important. 

If your initial search doesn’t yield any results, investigate whether your loved one had a safety deposit box with a bank, a home safe hidden somewhere less than obvious, or other properties where the will might have been kept. You should consider discussing the matter with others who had a close relationship with your loved one and who may have some ideas about where the will could be. 

If you are familiar with the attorneys your loved one had worked with in the past or think you may know which attorney your loved one might have worked with in drawing up the will, reach out to the attorney’s office to find out if they have the will for safekeeping. 

Additionally, your loved one may have filed their will with their county clerk’s office for safekeeping. Reach out to the Estates division of the county courthouse for the county in which your loved one lived or of any other NC county your loved one lived in previously if you suspect the will might be recorded in that county. 

Once you find the original will, you are one step closer to seeing your loved one’s wishes honored. 

If you can’t find the original will but are able to find a copy of a will that seems to be the last will and testament of your loved one based upon conversations you may have had with your loved one before their passing, you can submit the copy of the will to the court under a petition to probate a lost will. Probating a copy of your loved one’s will can be much more complicated than probating an original document. Among other things, witnesses to the will need to sign affidavits for submission to the court regarding the will signing event. A licensed attorney can advise you on what steps to take if you find yourself in the possession of the copy of a will rather than the original. 

Contact us if you have any questions or need assistance in the probate process for your loved one’s estate.

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Carolina Estate Planning

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