You must find the will of a deceased person to start probate -- the legal proceedings used to settle a person's final affairs and divide his estate. Ideally, the testator should always provide a copy of the will to his named executor, but if this wasn't done, you may need to be creative in where you start looking.
Contact the deceased person's attorney. The attorney may have the original will for safekeeping or know if another attorney, such as an estate attorney who drafted the will for the deceased, does. Look through the deceased person's financial records and documents if you're unsure who her attorney was. Cashed checks or legal papers may identify her attorney.
Read More: How to Find Out If Someone Left a Will for Probate
Talk to the deceased person's close family members and friends. Although they might not know where the will is, they may be able to identify places the deceased stored important documents. Check any suggested places.
Check around the deceased's home for a safe deposit box key. Keys vary in shape and color but typically don't have grooves. Contact the banks the deceased did business with if you find a key to see if he had a box. File a petition in the local probate court for an order to open the box.
Visit the surrogate or probate court of all counties the deceased person owned real estate in and previously lived in. Ask the clerk to check if a will was filed by the deceased person for safekeeping.
You may need state identification, proof of the person's death and proof of your relation to the person, such as your birth certificate, to check for a stored will in some areas.
Contact out of state probate courts by phone to see if you can mail in a will search request.
Anna Assad began writing professionally in 1999 and has published several legal articles for various websites. She has an extensive real estate and criminal legal background. She also tutored in English for nearly eight years, attended Buffalo State College for paralegal studies and accounting, and minored in English literature, receiving a Bachelor of Arts.