Who Gets a Copy of a Will After the Testator / Testatrix Dies?
1) Executor/Executrix- They are the personal representative chosen by the testator/testatrix for settling the estate and has the responsibility of handling all fiduciary responsibilities handled by the estate.
2) Beneficiaries mentioned in the will- The will should outline the inheritance the beneficiary should be receiving, how they will receive it and when they will be receiving it.
3) Heirs at Law and or prior Beneficiaries- Those not listed in the will, but those that may feel that they are entitled to a part of the estate. A copy may be given to the heirs at law for challenges to validity of the will.
4) Accountant for the Estate- A copy must be provided for determining debts, estate income, principal, estate taxes, income taxes, and or death taxes.
5) Successor Trustee- In a Pour Over will the trustee over monetary funds is entitled to receive a copy of the will to determine how the funds should be disbursed.
6) IRS / State Taxing Authority- if the estate is taxable then a copy must be submitted with a copy of the estates tax return.
7) Public Record- Wills are public record and anyone that may have access to public record may have access to obtaining a copy of a will.
How to Obtain a Copy of a Deceased Persons Will?
A properly filed will with the probate court will be on public record and will be obtainable by requesting the will on file from the probate court in which the testator or testatrix resided. You can retrieve the will from public record by going in person to the probate court in question or if it is not possible to request for the document in person request the document via fax or mail. Secondly, you will be required to pay for a fee per printed page of the document. Fees may range depending on jurisdiction and if you are requesting the document via mail or fax a money order will need to be sent to pay and receive the printed document. Also if you are requesting the document via fax or mail then you will need to provide a self-addressed and paid envelop for mailing the returning copy of the will.
If a copy of the will is not filed in the probate court in which the testator / testatrix resides then a copy of the will can only be distributed to the individuals specifically listed within the will document executor, beneficiaries’, etc. If you believe that you may be entitled to some inheritance and are being left out of the will you may force the persons in possession of the will to file the will with the appropriate probate court. You may force this action by filing a legal case in the court in which the estate resides. In some states it is actually an illegal crime for a person to have possession over a copy of an original will to fail to file the will with the probate court after the person in possession of the will is aware that the testator / testatrix has died.