will is a written document expressing the testator’s (the author of the will) last wishes regarding property and assets. The will must be signed and witness to be valid.

The will must be kept in a safe place and accessed only after a person’s death. In some instances, a will can be lost. This can happen for many reasons. For instance, a will may be lost during a major move or relocation.

Where can Lost Wills be Found?

If a will has been lost, there may be several steps to take to track it down. The executor of the will or a family member should contact the person’s lawyer regarding the whereabouts of the will. Other searches should include personal items, financial institution, and safe deposit box. 

Generally speaking, if a will can’t be found, it will often be assumed that the will was destroyed

Will a Copy of the Will Be Accepted?

This depends on the specific court. Some courts may accept a copy of the will if the original can’t be found. Other courts may allow a witness who witnessed and signed the document to attest the will is valid. Again, this depends on several factors, including state or local laws and other statutes.

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Is There Anything I Can Do to Prove the Will Wasn’t Destroyed?

In some situations it may be possible to present evidence that a will was not destroyed by. An individual seeking to prove this will have to:

  • Show evidence the testator didn’t revoke or intend to destroy the will;
  • Prove the contents of the will;
  • Prove the testator created and executed a will that is valid and met state law requirements; and/or
  • Prove the will can’t be found after a thorough search.

A lost will can have major effects on the distribution of the deceased person’s property. Without a will in place, the property will likely have to be distributed according to state laws, which don’t really give specific instructions regarding individual pieces of property.

Instead, state laws often create a hierarchy of distribution, with close family members such as spouses or siblings receiving the first shares of the property. As a result, family members may often have many interests involved in finding a lost will.

Do I Need to Contact an Attorney about a Lost Will?

Without a will, a person’s estate is subjected to state laws of distribution. This means the individuals the deceased wanted to give property and money to may not receive them. If you are involved in a lost will situation, you may need to hire a lawyer. You may need to contact an estate lawyer regarding the lost will and what can be done to resolve the situation to avoid state-regulated distributions of property.

But before you contact a lawyer, it's important to first try to find the will in the above mentioned places. If you cannot find it, then attempt to contact the lawyer who helped create the will. If you do not know the lawyer or cannot find them, then keep record of this so your lawyer knows how to best help you.