How to Find a Will

Information on where to look for someone's will after they have died

Last updated: 10 November 2016

Finding a loved one’s will after they die can be difficult. Normally, the existence and location of a will is shared with a close family member or friend, but this is not always the case. If after asking your loved one’s closest friends and family you are still no closer to finding it, there are a number of places where people regularly store their will for safekeeping.

With their attorney

Some people consult an attorney when drafting a will, which often means that the attorney keeps a copy. You can find your loved one’s attorney by looking at other legal documents they may have. It is likely that your loved one would have kept these type of documents in a safe place, so desks, filing cabinets and offices are a good place to look.

At their home

After having a will notarized, a lot of people choose to keep the documents at home, so the will might still be in your loved one’s home. Try looking where other important documents are kept, or anywhere they hide valuable items for safe-keeping.

Will writing and storing companies

Part of the appeal of these companies is that they are often a more reliable place to store your will than in a filing cabinet at home. They tend to contact their clients by e-mail, so if you have access to your loved one’s email account, you may be able to find out whether they were using one of these companies.

Before they send you a copy of a will, most will storing companies will ask you to provide your loved one’s death certificate.

What happens if there is no will?

If you cannot find a will, if your loved one never made a will, or if their will is found to be invalid, intestacy laws will apply. When somebody died without leaving a will instructing how they wish for their belongings and assets, or estate, to be passed on, they are described as having died intestate.

The probate court will appoint an executor and instruct them on how to distribute the estate. This is usually done in accordance with intestacy laws, which can vary from state to state, but usually prioritizes the next of kin.