How to find wills

A last will and testament is a legal document that indicates how a person wants his or her property distributed upon death. A will can be probated, which means it is filed with a court to formally commence the administration and disposition of property in accordance with the terms of the will. Alternatively, a will may not be probated. For instance, a person may not have any assets to distribute and therefore there is no reason to probate the will. In either case, one may seek to obtain a copy of a will in order to see if you are an heir, or just out of curiosity.

Identify the full name of the deceased person whose will you seek to obtain. In addition, obtain their last known address. You may review telephone directories, public property records and/or simply ask the family or friends of the deceased person, if known.

Determine the name of the court in the jurisdiction where the deceased resided. This is based upon the residential address of the deceased. In order to determine the appropriate court where a will may be filed, check with your local library, yellow pages or an attorney in the area.

Contact the appropriate court department which handles trusts and estates. This department is usually known as the clerk, surrogate clerk or probate clerk. Inquire about the procedure to ascertain if there is a will on file for the deceased person. Generally, wills can be accessed either online or by visiting the particular court office and requesting the will. You may have to provide a reason for your request. In any event, be sure to follow the court office's procedure as directed.

Alternatively, contact the family of the deceased to request a copy of the will, if you have a relationship with the family and a legitimate purpose to obtain the will. If you have a specific reason to seek the will, be certain to explain the reason and provide supporting documentation.

If you are unable to obtain a copy of the will through the foregoing steps, consider using a public document search company. There are companies listed online that will research the matter on your behalf for a fee. Fees vary, but the general range is £19 to £97, depending on how extensive you want them to research the matter.


You may want to consult an attorney.


This article is not legal advice but just general information relating to performing a search for a will.

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Things Needed

  • Paper
  • Pen
  • Name and address of deceased person
  • Telephone Book

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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