To find out if a will exists, you should first ask family, relatives, other close friends, and/or the decedent’s lawyer whether the decedent left a copy of the will with them. You can also inquire with the Surrogate’s Court of the county where the decedent was a resident to see if someone had filed a petition to admit the will for probate. If all of the above yields no results, you can search the decedent’s house or his safety deposit box.
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Search of decedent’s house
If family, relatives, close friends, the lawyer, and the Surrogate’s Court have no record or knowledge of the decedent’s will, you can search the decedent’s house. If you has not been living with the decedent and the decedent lived alone in his house or apartment in New York, the residence might have been sealed by the police. Even if unsealed, you still needs to file a petition to examine the residence of the deceased. In this petition, you can examine the decedent’s house for the sole purpose of finding the will, insurance policies, and the deed to a burial lot. The examination of the decedent’s residence will be done in the presence of a police officer. Check also vehicles, mobile homes, and boats. A copy of the will may also have been stored in the computer or email. Searching the decedent’s house is the best way how to find out if a will exists.
Search of decedent’s safety deposit box
If all else fails, you can search the decedent’s safety deposit box, if he knows that such box exists and in which bank. Generally, banks will not divulge this information, unless you is the appointed executor or administrator of the estate. If you know that the decedent has a safety deposit box, you can file a petition to search the safety deposit box for the purpose of finding the will, insurance policies, and the deed to a burial lot. You can inventory the contents of the box, but cannot take valuable items, such as jewelry and money. If a will exists, it might be in the safety deposit box.
Ask family, relatives, close friends,
The best way to find out if someone died with a will is to ask family, relatives, close friends, and the decedent’s lawyer. Typically, if the decedent executes a will, he will choose a close family member, relative, or friend to be the executor. The decedent will let his nominated executor know of such appointment, give a copy of the will to the executor, and let the executor know where to find the original will upon the decedent’s death.
Ask the decedent’s lawyer
If family members, relatives, and close friends do not know whether there is a will or not, you can ask the deceased’s lawyer. If there is a will, the lawyer would normally have a copy in his records, but if you are not the executor, the lawyer might not provide you a copy of the will but can confirm whether a will exists or not.
If you don’t know who the decedent’s lawyer was or if they even had one, you can call nearby law offices and see if they have the decedent’s will. If you want to know how to find out if a will exists, you might have to ask a lot of people.
Check the Surrogate’s Court
If the family, relatives, close friends, and lawyer are not aware of an existence of a will, you can go to the Surrogate Court where the decedent last resided prior to his death to see if a petition had been filed to admit the decedent’s will for probate. This is a matter of public record and you can get this information by visiting the record room in the Surrogate’s Court and searching for the decedent’s name in the court’s computer records. If you are out-of-state, you can hire an attorney to retrieve this record for you. If a will exists, it may be in the Surrogate’s Court.
It is possible that a will does not exist
If all efforts to find the will yield no results, it would appear then that the decedent died without a will. In this case, consult with a lawyer to open the estate and file a petition for the issuance of letters of administration in order to manage the deceased’s property and distribute it in accordance with the state’s intestacy laws.
If you were looking at how to find out if a will exists and you did not find one, or if you did find one and would like to be appointed by the court to manage the estate of the decedent, we at the Law Offices of Albert Goodwin are here for you. You can call us at at 212-233-1233 or email at [email protected].