By: Rebecca L. Nichols, Esq.

Published at

24 May 2024

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How do I know if a Decedent had a Last Will & Testament?

Following the loss of a loved one, determining whether that loved one had a Will in place becomes one of the first questions that needs to be answered.  Not only might the Will govern the disposition of the decedent’s remains, but it will also dictate the method of proceeding after their death so time is of the essence.

Wondering how to find out if a deceased person had a will? Let’s navigate through this together. 

Ask the family Members:

One might obtain information on whether an individual had a Will by asking family members, friends, or neighbors and conducting a diligent search.

Search for original wills in safe places like homes and safe deposit boxes:

Most attorneys advise their clients to store their original Wills in a safe place.  First, we recommend looking through the decedent’s important documents in the home.  We also recommend looking in the decedent’s home safe or lock box.  If the decedent had a safe deposit box, that should also be checked.  If a Will is found in the decedent’s safe deposit box, Florida statute allows the bank to remove the Will and deposit it with the Clerk of Courts.

Suggested Read:  
Accessing Safe Deposit Box After Death and Florida Probate Code

Ask the deceased probate attorney for an original Will or a copy of the Will:

If you still cannot locate the Will, we recommend calling the decedent’s probate attorney and asking whether he or she retained the original Will.  Some attorneys keep their clients’ original Wills to safeguard them.  If the attorney does not have the original Will, he or she may be able to provide you with a copy.  

Suggested Read:  
When to deposit your Last Will and Testament in florida Probate Court

Contact the Probate Court Clerks and Search the Court Dockets:

If you believe a third party had the Will in his or her possession before the decedent’s death, you should call the Clerk of Courts and inquire whether a Will has been deposited for the decedent. The correct court for locating a decedent's last will is the probate court in the county of the decedent’s last known resident.  

Facing problems locating the right probate court clerk in your county, have a look at our resources page dedicated to detailed information about the county courts and clerks.

Production of wills  and Florida Probate Code: 

  • Florida statute requires a custodian of a Will to deposit the same with the appropriate Clerk of Courts within ten (10) days of learning of the decedent’s passing.
  • There is no fee to deposit the Will with the clerk of Court. However, a filing fee must be paid to the clerk upon opening a probate matter. 

We always recommend searching with a disinterested person when searching for a Will.  This helps avoid potential claims of tampering with the decedent’s Will and other estate planning or financial documentation.

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If you find yourself in a situation where you cannot locate a decedent’s Will and you don’t know how to proceed, contact our office today and schedule your complimentary consultation with one of our experienced Florida probate attorneys.

Useful Resources:

  1.  Can the Bank Deny Access to your safe deposit Box? 
  2. FAQs related to Affidavit to Gain Access to Deceased's Bank Property. 
  3. As a personal representative of an estate, what are your responsibilities and duties

Frequently Asked Questions: 

Are wills public records in Florida after the person passes?  Yes, your will is a public record but only after your death. 
Once you are gone, your will becomes a public affair and anyone can gain access to your will by requesting a copy of the will from your county court. 
After your passing away anyone can access details of your will such as the debts you owe, your assets and how you want to distribute them, your chosen beneficiary, executor, etc.
How to obtain a copy of a Will in Florida?  In Florida, a person can obtain a copy of a will by contacting the attorney who created the will. If the attorney is no longer available, the individual can contact the executor or personal representative named in the will. Alternatively, the person can file a petition with the probate court in the county where the will was created or last known to be located. Once the petition is filed, the court will provide access to the will and other probate records.

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