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What To Do If You Don’t Know Whether Your Recently Deceased Family Member Wrote A Will


The probate process, in which the court accounts for a recently deceased person’s assets, gives creditors a chance to seek payment of debts from the deceased person’s estate, files a tax return on behalf of the estate, and distributes the deceased person’s assets to the deceased person’s heirs, depends on whether the decedent wrote a will.  If there was no will, the probate court follows the laws of intestate succession, distributing the estate to the deceased person’s direct descendants or closest living relatives.  If the deceased person wrote a will, then not only does the deceased person’s property go to the beneficiaries listed in the will, who may or may not be the decedent’s close family members, but the court will also follow the instructions listed in the will regarding who to appoint as personal representative of the estate.  If you are unsure whether there is a will, all kinds of confusion can ensue.  The best way to avoid this problem is to ask your parents point blank whether they have a will and where it is.  If it is too late for that, and you are already in charge of a recently deceased relative’s probate case, contact an Orlando probate lawyer.

Where to Look for a Will

If you are not sure whether your recently deceased family member wrote a will, these are some steps to take before proceeding with probate as though the person died intestate (without a will):

  • Look in the places where people usually keep important papers, such as desk drawers, closets, or storage boxes.
  • When notifying the decedent’s bank of the death, ask if the bank has a copy of the will.
  • Ask other people who might have a copy of the will. If the decedent had a lawyer or a financial adviser, they might have a copy of the document.  Close friends of the decedent may have witnessed the testator’s (author’s) signature on the will might also have copies of it.
  • The decedent should have filed a copy of the will with the probate court when they signed it, so you might be able to get a copy of the will directly from the court.

Don’t Get Your Hopes Up About a Long-Lost Inheritance

When a stranger emails you and tells you that you have inherited money from a long-lost relative, it is probably a scam.  The personal representative of the estate must notify all “interested persons” (close relatives who may have a claim to the inheritance) within two months of the estate opening for probate, so if more than a few months have gone by since the person died, it is unlikely that you really stand to inherit.  Yes, there are unscrupulous estate research firms out there, where the employees spend their days combing the obituary pages of news sites and searching consumer DNA databases, but you should avoid those like the plague.

Contact Us Today for Help

A probate lawyer can help you complete the probate process as painlessly as possible, whether or not the decedent wrote a will.  Contact Gierach and Gierach, P.A. in Orlando, Florida to discuss your case.



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