How do I find out if my mother has a Will or not?

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How do I find out if my mother has a Will or not?

Asked on August 16, 2013 under Estate Planning, Illinois

Answers:

M.D., Member, California and New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 8 years ago | Contributor

First, I will assume that your mother has already passed (otherwise you could just ask her). That being the case, you need to find out if a Will has gone through probate. So contact the probate court in the county in which she died. If a Will was filed it will be available to the public; you can obtain a copy for a small fee. Although if you had been named in it, you would have already been notified.

If there is no Will on file, you can ask friends or other family members if they know if one was drawn up; possibly the family accountant or other advisor will know. Also, you can check to see if she had a safety deposit box and/or make a thorough search of her home, etc. If you cannot find a Will, then she may have died without one. In this case, any assets will pass through a process called “intestate succession”.

You should be aware however, that some assets can be transferred outside of probate. For example, if your mother had a small estate, property may have been transferred by affidavit (or her state's equivalent). Further, some assets may have been held as "joint tenants with right of survivorship", in which case the other joint tenant would have received your mother's share to the property. Additionally, funds held in an IRA, pension, 401(k), or other retirement plan bypass probate and go directly to named beneficiaries. The is true regarding any life insurance proceeds.


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