Locating a Missing a Will
You should make sure that you look in a few key places for the will. First, talk to relatives and friends of the deceased person. Someone may know exactly where the will is. Also, check in the following places:
- Desk drawers and filing cabinets
- With the family lawyer
- In a lockbox or safe
- With other important papers
If you think the will might be in a safe deposit box, know that California has special laws concerning access to deceased people’s safe deposit boxes. You should talk to a lawyer about getting access to the box. To do so, you will have to meet several legal requirements.
What If You Can’t Find the Will?
If you cannot find the will anywhere, then you may need to seek help from the California probate court. The court can appoint a personal representative for the estate who manages its affairs. The personal representative should have permission to access a safe deposit box. In addition, the personal representative can use the deceased person’s money to cover funeral costs and pay pressing bills and expenses.
If at some point a will turns up (such as in the safe deposit box), then the court can review the will and appoint the personal representative or someone else as executor. The executor then manages the estate, pays off creditors, and distributes the estate to anyone named in the will.
If you never find a will, then the estate will pass to relatives through the process of intestate succession. Intestate succession allows the spouse and children to inherit the majority of the estate. If a spouse or a child is no longer living, then some of the estate may go to parents, grandchildren, or other more distant relatives.
Planning your estate? Look to Janet Brewer, Esq. for thorough and thoughtful estate planning advice. Janet’s more than 20 years of legal experience will give you confidence and peace of mind. To schedule a “Get Acquainted” meeting, visit Janet's website or call her office at (650) 469-8206.