Wills are open to the public. Check with the probate court in the county where your father lived to discover if a will is on file. Court clerks should be able to track wills based on the date of death and the name of the testator. You may also want to check with other family members to see if they know anything about their parents' will.
Your parents might have told you what kind of will they wanted, but didn't get around to writing one. In this case, the law allows them to change their minds at any time. So if your parent had said they didn't want any kind of will, then they wouldn't need to write one. However, if they did say something about will planning, then it's important that you don't delay in preparing their documents. A lawyer can help you write a will that follows the laws in your state. He or she could also advise you on how to structure trusts if your parent was wealthy and died without writing one.
It is not mandatory for minors to have trusts, but if they want to avoid complications with their estates later in life, they should consider creating them. Minors cannot create trusts by themselves; they need help from someone who is legally authorized to make decisions on their behalf - such as an attorney. An adult child could decide it isn't worth the expense to hire a lawyer and instead draft the trust themselves.
Consult a lawyer — it's free! Contacting the clerk of court in the county where he lived at the time of his death is one approach to find out if he had a will. The probate division handles wills, and the probate procedure is open to the public. They could even have the information online. If you search for "index of wills in California" online, for example, there are several sites that should come up. One large statewide law firm has an entire section on its website devoted to answering questions about wills and estates.
If he didn't have a will, then the laws of intestacy will determine who gets what after he dies without any special instructions from him. The only way around this is if he transfers all of his property to you before he dies so there are no disputes over who gets what when he passes away.
You should know that even though he may have been married once before, he can still create a will that includes you as well as other relatives. If he hasn't done so already, I would recommend that you ask him directly if he wants you included in his will and if he says yes, then keep writing his name at the top of every page until he signs it.
You should also check with the local bar association to make sure that your father did not have an outstanding issue against him before he died.
You must call the probate court and the court clerk's office with your father's name and date of death to discover if a will was filed. The court must then decide if the will is legitimate and whether two witnesses were present. If so, the will is accepted by law as valid.
The witnesses' names and addresses are found in the probate file. You will need to provide this information when you make your appointment with the court. It may be possible for the witnesses to come to the appointment. They will not be required to attend in person.
If there is no will, the state laws on intestacy will apply. These laws determine who gets what after all debts and other obligations have been paid. In some cases, children under 18 years old may want to express their wishes about what should happen to their share of their parent's estate. Otherwise, the law decides for them. A lawyer can advise you on the best ways to prepare for these events.
Contact the probate court in that county to locate a deceased family member's will.
Looking for a misplaced will When a will cannot be found, the deceased's possessions and documentation should be searched first. Even if you don't discover the will, you could uncover information about their lawyers, a receipt for the will, or a duplicate of the document.
If you can't find the will, ask your parent's lawyer to provide you with a copy under the law in all but the most unusual cases. The law allows anyone who is related to the deceased or has a financial interest in the estate to see the will. Your parent's lawyer may be able to provide you with information about other possible wills - especially older ones that weren't discovered during the probate process. If there are no other wills, then the original will probably contains information about who gets what after taxes and other expenses have been paid.
In some states, it is required by law that a will be written up in legal language. In other words, words such as "I leave" and "give" need to be used instead of "he left" and "she gave".
The will needs to be signed by the testator (person creating the will) in front of someone who will identify the testator as being of sound mind. This may not be necessary in states where witnesses are not required to be identified.