How do I Find Out if a Will For My Dad Exists?

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“My Dad passed in 2010. He told me himself that he has a will. I did not ask and he did not tell me his lawyer’s name. My question is, how can I find out if his will is public information? I’m lost and don’t know where to start. He passed in Indiana. I have contacted the funeral home and they said that my Dad’s life insurance paid for it all.”

[NOTE: Articles and answers on DearEsq., while written and published by lawyers, do not constitute legal advice, and no attorney-client relationship is formed by your reading of this information. You should always consult with an attorney for any legal situations.]

During a person’s life, a will is a private document. It isn’t registered with a public agency (in any state that I’m aware of; state
laws vary). This is good, because wills can be changed and people may not want their wills to be public knowledge while they’re alive and may still change their minds.

The downside is that a will doesn’t become public record until after someone dies, and the person who has the will (the “custodian”) files it with the appropriate court. There are obviously many situations where this may not happen immediately, or at all–for example, if the custodian doesn’t know the person has died.

All of which is a long way of saying that there isn’t a single easy way to determine whether your father in fact had a will, and to find it if he did. If you’re lucky, someone filed it with the appropriate court, and all you have to do is contact the probate court in the appropriate county to get a copy. (The appropriate county is usually where the deceased person last resided, but it doesn’t hurt to check neighboring counties or other places he may have lived now or in the past, as mistakes can be made.)

If it’s not with the court, then you have some detective work ahead of you to try to locate the attorney (check your father’s financial records, as he doubtless paid the attorney at some point) or the will itself.

Good luck. And when you make out your own estate plan, if you want it to be carried out, be sure to leave a copy with someone, or in a place where it’s easy to find.

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Author: House Attorney

A house attorney has answered this question.