If you’re the executor of someone’s estate, one of the first orders of business is locating the original copy of their will – because that’s what the court generally needs to see when probate is opened.
What do you do, however, if all you have is a copy and you aren’t sure where the testator stowed the original? Here are some places to look.
Check through their personal documents
Start your search in the most obvious place: Their home office or wherever they kept their important papers. Look for a desk, a filing cabinet or even a document box that they might have tucked under their bed.
Ask family and friends
Sometimes, close family members or friends may have been entrusted with the location of someone’s will. Check with their spouse, adult children, siblings and closest friends to see if they were ever told where to look when the time arrived.
Look for a safe or safety deposit box key
A safety deposit box at a bank is another common location where people store important documents. If the deceased had a safety deposit box, it’s worth checking its contents for a copy of their will. Similarly, home safes are another popular storage spot for these kinds of documents, so ask if the testator had one hidden anywhere in their home.
Check with the clerk of courts
Virginia is one of the states that allows testators to place their wills in the hands of the clerk of the circuit court in the county where they live for safekeeping. It’s very possible that the testator did this, especially if had legal guidance when they created their will.
Ultimately, if you cannot find your loved one’s original will and all you have is a copy, that copy can potentially be used for probate. However, that can make for unnecessary delays in the probate process and a more complex administration of the estate, so be sure to do an exhaustive search before you proceed.