Little Rock, AR asked in Estate Planning and Probate for Texas

Q: How do I find if a decedent has a will.

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2 Lawyer Answers
Isaac Shutt
Isaac Shutt
  • Estate Planning Lawyer
  • Richardson, TX
  • Licensed in Texas

A: Here's what we typically do:

Step 1) Search the court records for the county in which the deceased resided at the time of death.

Step 2) Then, we send a letter from our law office to any of the people who might have had possession of a will.

Step 3) Then, if we still don't locate one, then we file a case in court as if there is no will. This last forces whomever possesses a will to bring it forward (or else, the judge will just make a ruling that there's no will).

Gratia "Grace" P. Schoemakers
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  • Estate Planning Lawyer
  • Licensed in Texas

A: To determine if a decedent has a will, there are several steps you can take. These steps combine legal procedures with practical measures to ensure a thorough search.

Check Personal Papers: Often, individuals keep important documents, including their will, in a safe place at home. This might be a filing cabinet, a home safe, or any secure location where the decedent might have stored important papers.

Consult with Family Members and Close Associates: Sometimes, decedents inform a family member, close friend, or associate about the existence and location of their will. It’s important to reach out to these individuals who might have been confided in.

Contact the Decedent’s Attorney: If the decedent had a regular attorney or a legal advisor, it’s a good idea to contact them. Often, wills are drafted by attorneys who might retain a copy or know where the original is stored.

Search Safe Deposit Boxes: If the decedent had a safe deposit box at a bank, it might contain the will. Accessing a safe deposit box after someone has passed away can involve certain legal procedures, which may vary by jurisdiction. Generally, you might need a court order or a certification proving your interest in the estate. In Texas, if you are not a signatory on the Safe Deposit Box, you will have to obtain a court order to open the Safe Deposit Box(es).

Check with Local Probate Court: It’s possible that the decedent filed their will with the local probate court for safekeeping. The procedures to search court records can vary, but many jurisdictions offer an online search tool or allow in-person record searches.

If, after these steps, an original will cannot be located, a copy of a will can be used as well. If there no original will nor a copy is found, the decedent may be considered to have died "intestate," meaning without a will. In such cases, the distribution of the decedent's assets will be handled according to state intestacy laws.

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