Without the benefit of pre-death conversations, you may not know that Mom stashed her last will and testament under the floorboards of Dad's old Corvette. Stranger hiding places have been uncovered!
What steps can you take when a parent passes away without sharing the location of a will or telling you who the attorney was who drafted and executed the will? What if you can't find any copies in what seem like reasonable hiding places?
The article, "What steps to take when you lose a will," from New Jersey 101.5 says there are plenty of clues you can use to track this down.
If your mom has passed away, first be certain that a will hasn't already been probated. Contact the probate court in the county where your mother lived at the time of her death. These records are public.
Next, search your mom's papers to see where she did her banking. See if she had a safe deposit box at the bank. Also, take a look at your mother's checkbook or bank statements to find out whether she paid an estate planning attorney. Hopefully, the attorney will have the original will and trust or a signed copy of them.
Your mom may have held onto business cards or letters from a financial advisor who may know the location of a trust. Tax returns should also be reviewed to see if there's information about a trust.
Maybe your mom hid the documents. She would not be the first to do so.
You could also reach out to relatives and close friends to see if they know whether your mom ever consulted with an estate planning attorney or a financial advisor. Even if you find an unsigned copy of the will, an attorney may be able to help you get the estate probated.
Despite all of your efforts, you need to know that you may not be able to get information from the attorney or gain access to the safety deposit box or any banking information if you are not an appointed executor or trustee. Speak with an experienced estate planning attorney to discuss the process of applying to the probate court so that you may be appointed as an administrator. This is another example of how important it is to have these kinds of conversations among family members in advance.
Reference: New Jersey 101.5 (January 13, 2016) "What steps to take when you lose a will"