How to View a Probated Will?

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 What Are Some Ways to View a Probated Will?

A will is a legal document that manages your distribution of assets after death. You can also assign guardians for minor children. A will is crucial, and each individual should plan on creating one. It allows you to communicate your last wishes more precisely. Having an attorney assist you in properly drafting a will is recommended.

However, the reality is that most people do not initiate the process of drafting a will and end up without one. Without a will, the state you reside in will decide how to allocate your assets to your beneficiaries according to its regulations. Remember, the local laws may not be what you would have desired for your survivors. Therefore, if you want to control your property after your passing, creating a will is a major step in that direction.

There is a significant difference between a living will and a will. The living will is created for your end-of-life medical care. It is also referred to as the Advance Healthcare Directive. A living will is made while you are alive and sound. It serves the purpose of directing the necessary people on what to do if you can not make your wishes known for your end-of-life care. Living will not have any power after you pass.

Another important aspect of the will process is probate. Probate is the legal process for settling an estate, whether one has a will or not. The probate process differs by state, and nowadays, there is a quicker, less expensive option if the asset value is below a certain amount. You can check with your state to determine that amount. Probate is also considered a public record. Therefore, having the will probated decreases the estate’s privacy level.

How to Find a Will in Public Records?

You can view a probated will online. You would need to do an online search to locate the probate case. The following steps will guide you in finding the probate records online. The first step is to figure out what jurisdiction it was filed in. You need to locate the county and the state to determine where the estate executor filed probate. In most cases, this is where the grantor resided and where they passed away.

Usually, the executor would have initiated the probate process already in one of those counties. An online database system allows you to search online through the deceased address or locate nearby hospitals in the area. You can also check the local newspaper or funeral home obituaries for more relevant information.

Furthermore, you can search for the estate on the county government’s website and find out where the executor filed the paperwork at the county clerk’s office. According to Trusts and Wills, once you locate the probate, you can search within their county government website using the deceased person’s name. You can also get access to information about the will to determine whether or not it has gone through the probate process and become a public record. However, you will not have access to all the details you may seek. You can contact the county clerk’s office by phone or email if you need additional details and information.

Usually, after you contact the county clerk, they can send you the information on probate records via fax or mail. Also, you have the option to go to the courthouse in person. If the probate records are public, you should be able to gain access to the will.

But, there are cases where the judge can seal the records upon request; if this is the case, you will not be allowed to view the documents/ The preferred way to obtain a will is with the probate court file number. The county clerk can provide the case number for reference, or the executor can also give you the information.

To get a copy of the will, you may need to search through the archives or search online by the deceased name. The format of the document will vary depending on when they passed away. After you gain access to the documents, you can print the paperwork for your needs. You must pay fees for the process and to obtain the records. Furthermore, you can obtain the will through the court as stamped and certified, resembling the exact copy of the official document.

Can You Keep Your Will From Becoming a Public Record?

Generally, you cannot request that your will be concealed from public records. There are only some rare occasions when a judge may decide to keep probate records private after death. Furthermore, certain assets do not need to go through the probate process and can be directly transferred to your intended beneficiaries. Below is a brief description of these assets:

  • Trust assets: Property that is in a living trust does not need to go through probate, but rather those assets transfer directly and privately to your beneficiaries;
  • Jointly-owned property: If two people jointly own the property and are both listed on the deed, each person automatically becomes the sole owner when either one passes away;
  • Non-probate assets: With some assets (such as life insurance policies and retirement accounts), you can name a beneficiary who will receive the asset when you pass away and;
  • Funds in a POD or TOD account: Payable on death (POD) and transfer on death (TOD) accounts are bank or brokerage accounts in which you name someone to receive the account’s contents after your death. This can occur without the probate process.

What Happens if You Die Without a Will?

Dying without a valid will is referred to as “dying intestate.” An intestate estate needs to go through probate, but the process can linger a while. The details of the process will be disclosed to the public. The local county court will decide on your estate and distribute your assets based on the state’s intestate succession laws. These laws decide who receives your property, who will care for your minor children or pets, and how to pay any debts you left behind.

A will can contain the following provisions:

  • Selection of an executor who carries out the provisions of the will;
  • Name the beneficiaries (individuals who are inheriting the assets);
  • Specific details on how and when the beneficiaries will receive the assets and
  • Name any guardians for any minor children.

Anyone above the age of 18 is highly encouraged to have a will. Especially if you have any sort of savings, investments, property, or dependents, you should prioritize the time to create a will. As stated above, if a will is absent, the state will decide what to do with the assets following the state laws.

When Do I Need to Contact a Lawyer?

There are ways to view a probated will online. As mentioned above, various ways exist to determine the information for a probated will. In some situations, the courts may have sealed the information. If you cannot locate the will, you can take guidance from a local probate attorney to help you with your case.

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