How can I find out if there was a will when someone died?

The first place to check is with the probate court in the County of the State where the deceased lived. In almost every case the Will, if filed, will be available to the public.

Anyone can get to see it, and for a modest fee, obtain a copy. If you are far away, a local lawyer or legal service bureau often can arrange to do a search and get a copy for you, at a relatively modest fee.

The fact that a person died — even if he or she “owned” substantial assets — does not mean that he or she had a will, or that the will was duly filed with the Court. In fact, if the deceased held property exclusively through a Living Trust or a joint ownership arrangement, there may not have been a need to file a will, because the Trust did not “die” with the individual.  Also, with certain forms of joint ownership, the property usually passes to the other joint owners automatically.