How to Find a Loved One’s Will
Under Illinois law, the executor must file a decedent’s will with the probate court and, within 30 days, institute a proceeding to have the will admitted to probate. Ideally, the testator would have told relatives where his or her will was being stored while living. Unfortunately, this is not always the case. Instead, nobody might know where a will was stored—or if one was even created.
As experienced probate attorneys, the Gierach Law Firm has helped many family members search for wills. Below, we offer our tips for the best places to look.
Check Filing Cabinets
Look wherever the testator kept copies of important papers, such as deeds to their house or retirement account information. They might have a copy of the will there or instructions for where to find it. Some people stuff important documents in a junk drawer or a cardboard box, so perform a thorough canvas of their home.
Look into Safe Deposit Boxes
This is another popular option. Many people store wills at the bank in a safe deposit box. Look for keys or receipts that show they were renting a box. You can go check if a copy of the will is there.
Check Computer Files or Memory Sticks
Your loved one might have kept a digital copy of their will on the computer or a memory stick. Alternatively, you might find an email from an attorney discussing a meeting for drafting a will. You might not be able to introduce an electronic copy, but it is an important first step for finding out which attorney drafted the will.
One problem with checking files is that your loved one’s computer might be password protected. If you can find the password, great. If not, you might need to hire someone to help you access the computer.
Ask Friends, Family, and Caretakers
Other people might know where the will is located, so ask around. You might not have seen your loved one much in the past few years, but a caretaker might know whether the testator created an estate plan and, if so, where it is stored. Write down any leads that sound promising.
Identify Your Loved One’s Lawyer
Your loved one might have used a lawyer to draft an estate plan, so go through a list of contacts and search for the names of any attorney. You can call any lawyer your loved one might have met with and inquire about a will. Lawyers often keep the original in their office or can tell you where to find it.
Remember, your loved one might have met with an attorney for a different reason—a criminal matter or to bring a personal injury lawsuit. But you can still explain your situation to the lawyer and ask if they helped create a will.
Contact an Illinois Probate Lawyer for Assistance
Probate is a confusing process, but professional legal help is available. If you need assistance finding a will, contact one of our dedicated Naperville probate lawyers by calling 630-756-1160. We can strategize about where the will might be located and can help guide you through probate, if necessary.