When a person dies, it is the duty of the Executor to distribute the estate properly. If the deceased has left behind assets worth $150,000 or more, then the estate has to go through the California probate process. However, to begin the process it is important that you have the last will and testament of the deceased estate owner. However, what if you don’t know about the existence of a Will? In this post, we will discuss the ways on how to find a Will.

Contact the Deceased’s Attorney

When a person is alive, a Will is his/her personal property. Legally no one has the right to view it. Many people leave a copy of their last will and testament with their attorney. They also name a designee or executor to handle the estate after their death.

If you already know that you are the Executor, you can inform the attorney about the death of the estate owner and request a copy of the will. A will becomes part of the public record after the executor files it for probate.

Check with the Probate Court to Find the Will

To confirm the existence of a Will, you can contact the Probate court. Usually, the court in the county where the deceased person lived their last days has the probate jurisdiction. Contact the clerk in the concerned probate court and ask how to check the status.

Locate the Probate File Number

Some courts have automated phone lines that require you to input the name and death date of the deceased to find the probate file number. So, for locating a Will or the probate record, make sure that you know:

  • The full legal name of the deceased
  • Confirm death date – in case you are not sure, you can check the newspapers for a death notice or search the Social Security Death Index. The Death Index lists all the people who had a social security number. 
  • Lastly, the county where the deceased lived at the time of his/her death and the county where they owned real estate.

It is important to know that there is no central repository for keeping probate documents, so knowing the deceased’s last residence is important. You can find the details on the Social Security Index.

Search the Probate Index Online

Some probate courts have online archives where can search the probate index. While some may only provide the information about the probate court where the person filed the will, others may allow to view the record online.

Go to the county probate court, inform the clerk about the probate index, and get the file. It has the probate petition, deceased’s last will and testament, and the death certificate.

Contact a Probate Lawyer in California

If the executor has not filed the will for probate, you will not find a public record. Perhaps, someone has intentionally not filed the will. However, if you are sure that you are one of the beneficiaries, you can take legal action to find the will. Contact the Legacy Lawyer, if you wish to sue the person who has the Will, or want to contest the will. We have the best team of attorneys and legal advisers to help you with all the matters related to the probate process.