Some people come to an estate planning lawyer after a parent has died. In many situations, for example, adult children speak to an estate planning attorney wanting to know what exactly comes next. Will they have to go to the probate court? How do they start the probate process? Who inherits the property?
All of these questions have answers that differ depending on your particular circumstances. Take, for example, what happens when you cannot find the will. How do you know your parents have even created a will in the first place? Who should you talk to if you can’t locate it?
Let’s take a look at this scenario in a little more detail.
How will I know if my parents created a last will and testament?
You can’t know for certain. The law imposes specific requirements on anyone who chooses to create a will. Though you have to make the document in writing and make sure that document meets certain requirements, there is no law that requires you to notify someone else that you have made a will. So, even if your parents created a last will and testament, that parent has no duty to tell you of that fact.
Is there a state will registry in Florida?
No. The state of Florida does not offer residents the ability to file a last will and testament with any state agency. If you create a last will and testament is up to you to keep it safe and secure. Then, after you die, it’s up to your representatives to file that document with the appropriate Florida probate court. The probate courts do not serve as a depository of documents.
Where should I look for the will?
Start with the obvious places, such as filing cabinets, desk drawers, home safes, and anywhere else your parents might have important documents. You might also want to look at less obvious places, such as under mattresses or between the pages of books on a library shelf.
You might also want to look for bank safe deposit box keys and letterhead or business cards from an attorney. Chances are, if your parents have an attorney assist in creating his or her last will and testament, that attorney will either have a copy of the will or know how to obtain one.
What if we can’t find it at all?
That’s a little difficult. Florida law essentially says that if a person dies and his or her will cannot be found, the law assumes that will was destroyed or revoked. While you can overcome this presumption, you will need to speak to your attorney about your options if you can’t find the will.