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California Lawyers Association

Probate for Missing Wills

What Happens if We Cannot Find a Will?

If a Will is lost or cannot be found, California probate law will determine what happens. If you have looked in obvious places and have come up empty, try more creative searching.

First, check some typical hiding places:

  • filing cabinets
  • desk drawers
  • the “tackle box”
  • wall or floor safes
  • garages
  • glove compartments
  • trunks of cars, and
  • between pages in a book and under mattresses

Second, contact the deceased’s bank for a safe deposit box. The bank may not be willing to tell you. Even if they do, the bank may not allow you to enter the safe deposit box without a court order.

Third, see if you can locate the attorney who drafted the Will. You might find the attorney’s business card or letterhead. You might also check all checkbooks for payments made to an attorney over many years.

Fourth, if you cannot find the attorney try to find any other adviser, such as a financial planner, CPA, or insurance agent. One of them might know the attorney used by the deceased.

Fifth, talk to family members. Sometimes family members may have been given a copy of a Will.

Sixth, talk to friends of the deceased. Often, they may have been witnesses to a Will.

Seventh, check with the Probate Court in the county the decedent lived. In the rare event that the Will was filed, it will likely be available to the public for viewing and purchase. California Probate Code § 8200(a) requires that the person in possession of the Will lodge the Will with the clerk of the superior court in the county in which the decedent resided within 30 days of learning of the death (unless a petition for probate has already been filed).

Finally, The National Will Depository specializes in the protecting, storage and finding of Wills.

You can access the National Will Depository information at: https://www.theuswillregistry.org/.

Contact Me to Talk Through Your Probate

If you still cannot find the Will, your next step should be to contact me to determine how the estate will be settled without a Will.

If you wish to gain more information on Orange County, California probate or if you need the general assistance of a probate lawyer, please contact me for a free consultation. I will spend time with you to answer your questions. You can reach me by phone at (949) 243-0408, by email at wksweeney@gmail.com or through my online contact form.

Client Reviews
Earlier this year, we were searching for an attorney to process a Heggstad Petition. We did a search on Google and read an article that was written by William Sweeney. The article was very clearly written and expressed almost the exact situation we found ourselves in, so I emailed William to interview him. He spent a good amount of time (for free) listening to the background of our situation...I highly recommend William for probate/Heggstad issues in California. Emma
I would highly recommend hiring Mr. Sweeney for your Probate or Heggstad petition needs! He was amazing and super easy to work with! He had my Heggstad drafted and filed within 1 week from when I provided all the info to him. 60 days later, I hear that the Judge granted everything asked for in the petition. John
Bill Sweeney and his incomparable paralegal Jennifer Fejzic represented and advised me through the probate of a parent's estate. Having practiced law myself for over 30 years, I expected expertise, precision, and wisdom -- all of which Bill and Jennifer richly delivered, promptly and at a reasonable, indeed more than fair, fee. I recommend Bill and Jennifer with gratitude and confidence. Greg