October 05, 2022

How to Find a Last Will and Testament in Florida After Someone Dies

Posted by Bishop L. Toups | In Estate Planning

Locating a Decedent’s Will can be extremely difficult and sometimes can be like looking for a needle in a haystack. Many individuals create Wills years before they pass, often misplace the Will, and don’t provide copies to family members/loved ones. We always recommend that the family thoroughly search the Decedent’s primary residence and look through all of the Decedent’s paperwork that they can find.

Lock boxes, safes, and safety deposit boxes 

Also, look for any lock boxes or safes where important documents might be kept. If the Will is not in the Decedent’s primary residence, then the family should see if the Decedent had a safe deposit box. Often individuals will place important legal documents in their safe deposit box. 

Caution: You may need a court order to access a decedent’s safe deposit box. Consult with your local probate attorney if this is the case.

Look for the attorney who created the Will

If searching the house and looking through the safe deposit box is not successful, then the next step would be to contact any attorneys that the Decedent might have used to create the Will. Many attorneys will keep the original Will or a copy in their files. If that is not successful, then we always recommend looking for any legal documents the Decedent executed to see if there is a law firm listed on the legal documents (e.g., Decedent went through a divorce and divorce law firm the Decedent used also updated the decedent’s estate planning documents after the divorce). It’s very common for someone to use a law firm to create a Will and help them with other legal issues. 

Ask close friends, family members, or other professionals which attorney/law firm the Decedent might have used. Also, if you think the Decedent named a corporate personal representative in the Will, it is likely that the corporate personal representative has a copy of the Will. 

Note: No federal or state databases store someone’s Will before they die. There are some companies where you can pay a monthly/yearly fee for them to store your Will in their database. Still, the vast majority of Decedents do not even know about this option, so it is doubtful these databases will have your loved one’s Will.

Bishop L. Toups

Bishop L. Toups is an estate planning, elder law, and tax attorney in Southwest Florida.

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