If you are involved in a loved one’s estate, you may be wondering how you can get a copy of their will. If your loved one is still living, it may be difficult to get a copy of their will unless they willingly provide it to you. This is because the will is considered personal property and no one has the legal right to demand to see it. In this event, you will have to ask for a copy of the will from the person who has possession of it. If they refuse to provide a copy of the will to you, you will have to wait until the person who executed the will is deceased to get a copy of the will. This article will primarily focus on how to get a copy of a will of a person who has passed away.  Read on to learn more.

How to Get a Copy of a Will in Probate

After a person passes away in California, depending on the value of the estate, the executor of his/her estate may need to probate the will with the local court. To start probate, an estate representative (usually the executor) files a Petition for probate of will with the local superior court in the county in which the decedent resided. Upon the filing of a Petition to probate, the probate clerk will create a file for the court case. Anyone can view this file at the courthouse. To get a copy of the will, appear in person to the court clerk and ask for a copy. You will be required to pay a small fee.

How to Get a Copy of a Will Not Filed for Probate

California Probate Code Section 8200 states:

The custodian of a will shall, within 30 days after having knowledge of the death of the testator, do both of the following: (1) Deliver the will to the clerk of the superior court of the county in which the estate of the decedent may be administered; (2) Mail a copy of the will to the person named in the will as executor, if the person’s whereabouts is known to the custodian, or if not, to a person named in the will as a beneficiary, if the person’ s whereabouts is known to the custodian.

In practicality, however, this California probate law is often disregarded if an estate does not need to be probated. In very small estates that can be settled outside of a formal court process, the will is often never lodged with the court.  If you are wondering how to get a copy of a will that is not filed for probate, keep in mind that a custodian of a will who fails to comply with the requirements of the statute shall be liable for all damages sustained by any person injured by their failure to comply with it. So what do you do if the person who has the original will has not lodged it with the court as required?

If your loved one’s will was not filed for probate, only the named beneficiaries, personal representatives and guardians for minor children may be allowed to see it by the person in possession of it. I have known situations where the person who had the decedent’s original will deliberately refused to provide copies to pertinent people. If the will has not been lodged with the court as required under Probate Code Section 8200,  you can file a legal action to ask the person who has the original will to file it with the proper court. Once you get a copy of the will, you will know what your rights are and the next steps to take to assert your rights.

Only the original copy of a will is valid. The original will must be filed with the court. A copy of a will is admissible in court if the original is destroyed by a fire or flood. It may also be accepted if the original will is lost by the testator. If the testator destroyed the original will, a copy will not be valid. In this case, California’s intestate succession laws will govern how the decedent’s estate is distributed.

Locating a will is not always easy. Contact A People’s Choice for help.  We can help you find a will and guide you through the probate process. Depending on the nature of your loved one’s estate, you may be able to settle the estate within a year. A very small estate could be settled within just a few months. Contact us for more information on how to get a copy of a will in California and probate an estate.

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