How to File a Will After Death

by Lauren Farrelly
After a loved one's passing, you will want to make sure their will is filed correctly.

After a loved one's passing, you will want to make sure their will is filed correctly.

A deceased person's will needs to be filed in probate court only if the estate is of a very large value. Certain assets do not need to enter probate court. These include life insurance benefits, property held in joint control (perhaps the deceased and their spouse, or the deceased and their son/daughter), or property held in a living trust. In the case of large monetary amounts, and additional property held by the deceased only, as well as cars, jewelry or other valuable items, probate court will determine if the will is valid and the assets can be dispersed as the deceased wished.

How to File A Will After Death

Contact the deceased person's attorney and the will's executor. In many cases, these two are not the same person.

Determine with the deceased's lawyer if the will needs to be filed in probate court. Typically, this will only be necessary if there are a large amount of valuable assets, such as valuable art work, furniture, cars, jewelry or property not part of a living trust or in a joint ownership situation.

Obtain a certified copy of the will from the deceased's attorney or estate, as well as a copy of the death certificate, and file it with the local county probate court of where the deceased lived. You will file it directly with the clerk at the probate court house. (A probate court may also be called a surrogate court.)

Obtain a hearing date and time for the validity of the will to be determined by the court. This may take anywhere from several days to several weeks.

Notify any parties named in the will, and show up at the probate hearing.

Tip

  • Once the will is filed in probate court, it becomes public record unless a judge orders it to be sealed under special circumstances.

Warning

  • Probate court can tie up will proceedings for months or even years at a time. If someone challenges the will, or the way any of those assets are dispersed, during the probate hearing it can open the door for a long legal battle ahead.

Items you will need

  • Lawyer
  • Will of the deceased
  • Death certificate

References

About the Author

Lauren Farrelly has been writing and producing for television since 2003. She has experience covering sports, business news and general news events for CNBC, ESPN and Bleacher Report. Farrelly has a BA in broadcast journalism from Arizona State University.

Photo Credits

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