What happens when you know that a family member wrote a last will and testament, but you can’t find it when they pass away? It’s not as unusual a situation as you may think — as every Atlanta estate planning attorney knows. Because of that, there are tips for locating the missing will and laws regarding what you can do. Let’s start with your hunt for the will.
Finding a Missing Will
The very first thing you want to do is conduct a search in The U.S. Will Registry. If you can’t find what you are looking for, you will be given the option of adding your contact information to the Missing Will Database. If an attorney has a copy of the will and can’t locate family members, they can retrieve your contact information from the site.
If this search didn’t lead you to the will, you can look for it in other ways and places. Don’t give up. It has to be out there somewhere if it was written.
1. Check with Family and Friends
Talk to family members and friends of the person who passed away. Tell them that you are looking for the will and can’t find it. Your loved one may have spoken with someone and told them where they were going to put the will for safekeeping.
2. Look in Storage
Some people keep important papers in fireproof lockboxes. Others have a file cabinet in their home. Still others store things like this in a desk. If your loved one had any of these types of storage options in their home, look through them if you are able to.
Don’t forget to check boxes in the backs of closets. Even if you can’t find the will, you may run across the business card of an attorney you can contact.
3. Go to the Bank
Contact the bank where your loved one had accounts and ask if there was a safe deposit box. If there was, that very well may be where the will is stored. Most banks will have policies for allowing loved ones into a security deposit box upon a person’s death. In fact, your loved one may have had to have named a family member or two that would be permitted entry.
4. Check Their Computer
Some people store important files on their computer. All your loved one would have had to do was scan their will and load it onto their computer. You can also check flash drives that you may find lying around. A digital copy can be printed and used in lieu of being able to find the actual will.
5. Ask Their Attorney
If you know the name or find the name of the Atlanta estate planning attorney that your loved one hired, contact them. If you don’t know where they are located or how to get ahold of them, all you need to do is search the Georgia Bar Association’s website.
The other thing that you can do is to contact your local probate court and see if the will was filed with the court. If it was, the court may be able to provide you with a copy.
Georgia Law Regarding Lost Wills
Let’s presume that you can’t find the will or that you discover that it has been destroyed. There are laws that dictate what you are able to do. According to O.C.G.A. 53-3-6 (2010), if the will is lost or destroyed during the author’s lifetime, a copy of the will that is proved to be so may be admitted to probate in place of the original.
What this means is that if a family member was given a copy of the will for safekeeping or you find the will during your search but discover it is only a copy, you can submit it to probate court. Your loved one’s wishes will still be carried out despite the original will being lost or destroyed.
If you still can’t find the will, one of several options are still available to you. Speak with an experienced estate planning attorney to learn more.
Keeping Wills Safe
No one wants to have to deal with this situation after their loved one passes. If you have written a will of your own, make sure that:
- Someone you trust is given a copy and knows where you will be storing the original
- If you place the will in a security deposit box, someone else has a key to get into it
- If you store the will on your computer, someone you trust knows how to get into your computer and what the file is named
- Your family knows the name of the attorney you used to construct your will
- Name a power of attorney as part of your estate plan so that person is able to pull any paperwork necessary upon your passing
A family has enough to deal with when a loved one passes away. The emotional turmoil that family members experience can prevent them from having the energy to search for these all important papers. If you have taken the time to write a will, be sure that someone either has easy access to it after your passing or knows where your will is stored.
Speak to an Experienced Atlanta Estate Planning Attorney Today
If you need assistance constructing a will or an overall estate plan in Atlanta, reach out to our office. We can help you put together a comprehensive estate plan that includes a Will and other important components. Call our office today to schedule your appointment.
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