Do I Have the Right to See the Will?
When someone dies, all of the individual’s assets including cash, bank accounts, real estate, automobiles, jewelry, electronics, clothes, and any other personal possession becomes part of that person’s estate. Someone who dies with a will is referred to by courts as having “died testate.” Someone who dies without a will dies intestate, and the distribution of his estate is governed by the state’s intestate succession laws.
If a loved one has died, you may have the right to be involved in the proceedings and see the will. There are two different avenues for gaining access to the will:
- Receive a copy of the will from the estate’s executor
If you are named in the will, the estate’s executor should provide you with a copy. If a copy has not been provided, ask the executor for one.
- Access the probate court’s public records
Wills in probate are considered public record and are open to read. Visit the probate court in the county the individual died.
If the will has not been probated — and so isn’t yet in the public record — and you know that someone has a copy of the will but won’t show you, you can file a motion in probate court to compel the individual to turn over the will. You only have standing to file this motion if you are an interested person, however.
An interested person is someone who is named in the will or would inherit from the estate under the state’s intestate succession laws. The latter category is generally limited to spouses, children, and parents of the deceased.
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