Every once in a while, we get a call from a prospective Florida probate client who spends about 20 minutes explaining who inherits under the decedent’s Last Will and Testament, only to finish by saying “but I only have a copy of the Will.”
That IS a problem.
Under Florida Statutes, the custodian of the Will must deposit it with the clerk of the courts in the county where the decedent resided within ten (10) days of the date of death. This is the legislature’s attempt to keep people from losing it! The reality is that many Wills don’t make it to the clerk’s office until someone wants to put it through probate. Additionally, note that while a decedent may have left an estate in Florida (i.e. owning some land in Florida) but did not actually last reside in Florida (domicile), then the Will should be deposited in the appropriate (out of state) county.
Can’t find the Will? Here are some ideas:
- Many clients choose to have their Wills held by the attorneys who prepared them. Look on the copy of the Will that you have to see if there’s any indication of who prepared it. If you find an attorney’s name, call them (you can look up Florida attorneys here. Additionally, if the Will was prepared out of state, try Terry Berger’s handy site which will help you look up out of state attorneys.
- Check to see if there is any indication that the decedent had a safety deposit box wherever he or she did their banking. Note that some banks keep this information very confidential.
- Going through papers in the home office? Always check unmarked folders or envelopes. I suppose some decedent’s thought it would be genius to put the Will in stealth packaging so no one could find it and doctor it!
- Check the clerks’ office in any county that the decedent ever lived in. Some counties around the country allow you to deposit the Will for safekeeping with the clerk’s registry.
- If the decedent last lived in an assisted living facility or nursing home, check with whoever is in charge of leftover inventory when the decedent’s room was cleared out.
- As a last ditch effort, check the home of EVERY child, parent or sibling of the decedent. Wills turn up in the strangest places and it can’t hurt to look!
If any of these tips leads to your successful location of the Will, leave a comment and thank us! (Then contact us and we’ll help you with the probate.