How to find a last will & testament

When a person passes away, they frequently leave a last will and testament. A last will and testament indicates the deceased's wishes as to the disposition of property or assets. There are various reasons why a person may seek to find the deceased's will. For instance, a person may want to know if he or she may be an heir, or perhaps a person is just curious.

Obtain the deceased's full name and any known alias. In addition, obtain the last known address of the deceased and any other identifying information. Determine the county where the deceased resided.

Determine the appropriate court in the jurisdiction which handles the filing of a will for probate. Probate is the process by which the court oversees the administration of the will. Usually, the courts which handle probate are referred to as "surrogate court" or "probate court."

Contact the court and ask if there is a probate proceeding on file for the deceased. If so, inquire as to that court's procedure to obtain the will. Generally, the probated wills are available for copying either electronically by computer or by one's physical review of the document at the court.

If the court does not have any records, consider contacting the family of the deceased in order to inquire as to the status of the will. Explain any reasons why you are making the inquiry.


If you cannot determine the jurisdiction where the person died, you may want to retain a private investigator specialising in the location of people to assist your search.


This does not constitute legal advice. Every jurisdiction is different as to the procedure used to obtain a will; thus, you may want to consult an attorney when attempting to locate a last will and testament.

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Things Needed

  • Name and identifying information for deceased

About the Author

J.S. Nogara began writing in 2000, publishing in legal texts, newspapers, newsletters and on various websites. Her credits include updating "New York Practice Guides: Negligence." She is a licensed attorney admitted to the New York State courts and the Federal Court, Southern District in New York. She has a B.S. from the University of Connecticut, a J.D. and an LL.M. degree.

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