How do you know if you were left anything in a will?

Hussle09 asked...

What if a deceased person's widow doesn't notify you of your credits? How do you know you were left anything?

Expert Answer

Barbara Repa, a senior editor, is an attorney, a journalist specializing in aging issues, and the author of Your Rights in the Workplace (Nolo), now in its 10th edition.

When a person dies, leaving behind a will, the executor named in it is responsible for notifying all the beneficiaries mentioned in the will and for distributing the property to them as directed. The executor can be anyone the person decided to name, not necessarily a spouse.

It takes a bit of time to finalize this property distribution—a procedure known as probate—an average of about 18 months after a person dies, so beneficiaries must often be a bit patient.

If you remain curious and uncertain about what the will specified, you should know that wills become public documents. You can request to see a copy at the probate court in which it was filed—usually the one closest to where the deceased person lived. Simply supply the deceased person’s name and approximate date of death.