When a family member passes, one of the important matters that the immediate family must consider is what will happen to his or her property and other assets. Usually this information is outlined in the person’s will. If the family member never disclosed information about a will, however, it can be difficult to know where such a document may be kept. Knowing how people commonly keep their wills may help with searching for a family member’s will so that their final wishes can be carried out.
The Importance of a Will
In the United States, if a person dies without a will, their estate is subject to division under state intestacy laws. Intestacy laws usually mandate that a person’s assets are divided among a surviving spouse, children, siblings, and/or grandchildren. If someone has a will but it remains indefinitely lost, then the state may follow intestacy laws, allocating assets in a manner that is against the wishes of the deceased.
If intestacy laws are followed to divide an estate but a will is found later, this could lead to lots of legal, financial, and personal strife among the heirs. It is therefore important to look extensively for a will when a relative passes to help simplify the potentially complicated situation and minimize conflict.
Places to Look
The original, signed will may be hidden in a number of places both within or outside of the home. Search the following places, where people often choose to hide important documents:
Safe deposit box or home safe
County clerk’s office
Car glove compartment
Under a mattress
If the Will Remains Lost
If for some reason the original, signed will cannot be found, it may still be possible to probate a lost will. As long as there is reason to believe that the will is still active and was not intentionally destroyed by the testator, it can still be considered valid. Any evidence of the original document being accidentally destroyed, such as in a fire or flood, may persuade a court to allow a lost will to be probated. If you believe that your relative left a will but it is lost, consider contacting an experienced probate lawyer to help with your case.
For more information on finding and probating lost wills, please visit the website of Austin probate attorneys Slater Kennon & Jameson, LLP here.