What to do if I’ve misplaced the original Will for my aunts estate but both the lawyer and myself have copies?

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What to do if I’ve misplaced the original Will for my aunts estate but both the lawyer and myself have copies?

My aunt died in July and her only child died in March leaving my siblings and I are responsible for her care. We had a new Will made in April saying that my siblings and I would inherit her estate when she passed. The son had an adopted son and we have a 1st cousin whom we haven’t seen in 30 plus years. My aunt wished them well in her Will, but didn’t leave them anything. Now the probate court is saying that the adopted son and 1st cousin are included since we don’t have the original Will. What can be done if anything?

Asked on October 27, 2010 under Estate Planning, Tennessee

Answers:

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

Answered 11 years ago | Contributor

In TN there is a strong presumption that a Will was revoked if the original Will cannot be found.  This is what is happening here. There have been numerous cases where the Court refused to probate a copy of a Will.  In a case where the Court refuses to probate the copy, the deceased is deemed to have died "intestate" so the Court will choose an administrator to manage the estate and distribute assets according to state intestacy intestate laws.

Due to the problems caused when an original Will cannot be located, it is very important that an original Will is kept in a lockbox or other safe location (with your attorney or stored with the Probate court). Just make sure that one or more trustworthy persons knowsof its location.

M.T.G., Member, New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 11 years ago | Contributor

Well, I think that what is happening is that they consider our Aunt to have died "intestate" meaning without a Will, and then the intestacy statutes in the state lay out who gets what.  If you have a copy of the Will, and the lawyer has it too, you can attempt to prove the copy of the Will and offer it for probate.  It appears that you are going to have a difficult time of things from what you have said in the question here.  If the lawyer that prepared the Will helps it may be easier. It could also get expensive and there are no guarantees. Good luck to you. 


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