Tampa, FL asked in Estate Planning for Tennessee

Q: My in-laws had their will/trust drawn up by a company that’s no longer in business. How do we find the original?

The company was Mid-South Estate Planning, which seems to have been charged with fraud or illegal practice.

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1 Lawyer Answer
Nina Whitehurst
PREMIUM
Nina Whitehurst
Answered
  • Estate Planning Lawyer
  • Crossville, TN
  • Licensed in Tennessee

A: In the "old days" attorneys did routinely hold original wills in their safes. This was in part due to the fact that most regular folk could not afford their own safes and partly due to the attorney's desire to handle the probate when the client died. Now that safes are more affordable, most attorneys do NOT keep original wills and trusts. I myself do not keep client originals. They go with the clients after signing, with instructions to keep then in a safe place.

The firm to which you referred got in legal trouble for the unauthorized practice of law. In other words, non-attorneys were drafting trusts and charging for it. Although I do not know this for a fact, I seriously doubt that they were keeping the original wills and trusts that they "sold".

If you have already turned the house upside down looking for their wills and trusts and have not found them, then the next step would be to contact banks that they dealt with to see if maybe they have copies or if maybe there is a bank safety deposit box.

Unfortunately, you will probably have to get yourself appointed by the court as executor or administrator of the estate before banks will even talk to you. That is unfortunate because one of the main goals of having a trust is to avoid probate, but if the will and trust can't be found, then you might have to go to court to get the authority to find them.

Anthony M. Avery agrees with this answer

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