Lost Wills

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What Happens When a Will is Lost?

Sometimes when a person dies, they have not disclosed the location of their original will and other estate planning documents to their family or friends. Situations like that can be frustrating for family members because the family must begin a search for the will soon after death. These searches can include the person's home, banks, lawyers' offices, other family members' papers, or even storage units. 

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If the original will  cannot be found, but you have a copy, the Court can probate the copy under certain circumstances:

You Must Show That A Will Was Actually Executed

This means that either you have a copy of the will or you have some other type of evidence to show that the decedent actually had a will and executed it. A blank copy of a will with no other supporting evidence will not likely be enough to establish a lost will. 

You Must Prove That The Will Was Not Revoked

Generally, when the original will cannot be found after death, there is a strong presumption that the person who executed the will destroyed or revoked it. You have the burden to show:

  • The person did not revoke the will.
  • A will was actually executed.
  • The will was not revoked.
  • The circumstances why the original will cannot be found.

You Must Prove The Contents Of The Will

If you have a copy of the will it must be attached to the petition for probate. Additionally, even if you only have part of the will, the parts you do have need to be provided to the court. If the will was destroyed or was lost, witnesses can offer proof of its contents from what they observed and remembered. But remember, the burden of proof is on the person offering the will into probate. They must prove the content of the original will by convincing evidence.

Find the Witnesses to the Will

If you have a copy of the will, the probate court will require the affidavit of at least one witness stating that:

  • They were indeed a witness to the will signing.
  • The copy of the will is a true and accurate representation of the original will

It is a good idea to jot down the home address, telephone number, and email of the witnesses and include it with the will. As the years pass, many people move away or pass away themselves so it is good to know how to contact them if the need arises.

Make Sure You Secure Your Will

When your attorney creates a will, they should ask you where you plan to keep your original will and make a note of it in their file and on a copy of the will they provide to you. This notation is very important as many times family members attempt to find the will but have no clue where you may have kept it. When this happens, they should contact the attorney who prepared the will and check to see if they know where the original is kept. 

Best Place to Keep Your Will

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While it certainly depends on your circumstances, the three most common places clients keep their wills are:

  1. Safe at home
  2. Safety deposit box at bank
  3. Attorney's office

We even had clients even keep wills in their freezer to ensure they are safe from fire. Simply put, just make sure your will is kept in a safe, dry, secure location and let a relative or friend know where it is kept.

If You Have Lost a Will, Give Clarksville Lawyer John Crow a Call Today

Many times after a relative dies, finding a will is much like finding a needle in a haystack. The good news is that if the original will cannot be found, a copy can be probated. Additionally, even if a copy of the original will is not located, there are circumstances where an unsigned copy can be probated but it depends on your particular circumstances. Give probate attorney John Crow today at his Clarksville office with any questions you may have regarding lost wills.

Next Up - Learn About Writing Wills

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