The most common reason for trying to locate a deceased person's lawyer is to find out whether the person ever made a last will and testament. The deceased's property should be distributed according to her wishes, and the best way to determine those wishes is through her will. Locating a deceased person's lawyer may also lead to the discovery of family members or assets. Finding the lawyer requires research and detective work, but public records often aid the search.
Go to the county courthouse in the county where the deceased person lived. Search the civil litigation, family law and criminal court records by party name to see whether any records contain the deceased person's name. If the deceased ever sued someone, got sued by someone, got divorced, got arrested or cited for a traffic violation, the county courthouse should have a file on the event. Ask employees at the records clerk's office how to locate and access the file. Once you have the file, search it for the name of any lawyer or law firm that is listed as attorney of record for the deceased. Copy this information.
Repeat the same process you used to search county courthouse records at the federal district courthouse in the federal district where the deceased person lived. The federal clerk of the court maintains bankruptcy records, tax court records, and records related to federal civil and criminal charges. Search any files you find for the name of a lawyer or law firm that represented the deceased. Copy any information you find.
Call the contact telephone numbers that were listed for the attorneys whose names you found in the court records.If the telephone numbers are invalid, call the state bar association for the state in which the lawyers practiced and ask to speak to the person in charge of membership records. If the lawyer is still a member, the state bar association should have her contact information.
Notary Public Search
Get out all the signed legal documents that were found among the deceased's property and look for any signatures that were notarized. Go to the county assessor's office in the county where the deceased person owned real property and search for notarized deed records. Signatures on deeds, divorce settlement agreements and affidavits are examples of documents that require notarization. If the deceased's signature was notarized, that means that he signed the document before a notary public. Where you find a notarized signature, make note of the name, location and commission number of the Notary Public.
Call the Secretary of State for the state in which the Notary Public authenticated the records of the deceased. Ask for the current contact information for the Notary Public who notarized the deceased's signature. Most states require a practicing Notary Public to keep the Secretary of State advised of a current business address.
Call or write to the Notary Public who notarized the deceased's signature. Many Notaries Public are employed by law firms as a convenience to clients who have to sign legal documents. If that is the case, the Notary Public can tell you who the deceased person's lawyer was. Even if the Notary Public did not work a law firm that represented the deceased person, she may have information about whether the deceased person was represented by a lawyer at the time she notarized his signature; if so, she may remember who the lawyer was.
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Talk to friends and neighbors who knew the deceased well. Ask them if they know about events in the deceased's life that would have required legal representation, like an arrest or a lawsuit. Follow up on any leads.
Look for legal contracts or agreements among the deceased's personal effects. Contact the people who did business with the deceased; they may know whether or not he had a lawyer review contracts before he signed them.
Call the lawyers who represented other parties in any lawsuits or disputes in which the deceased was involved. Opposing lawyers may remember whether the deceased consulted a lawyer whose name may not have made it on to final documents.
Purchase an ad in the state bar magazine or newsletter where the deceased lived. Most state bar associations publish periodicals that sell classified ad space. Place an ad that asks any lawyer who represented the deceased to contact you, and list your email address, your telephone number, and your postal address.
- Some court records are available online. Most courthouses maintain a computer terminal at the courthouse for members of the public to use to look up court records.
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