How can we find out if my mother-in-law had a will?

A fellow caregiver asked...

How can we find out if my mother-in-law had a will? She's been deceased for two months, and my brother-in-law says there is no will.

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.

Assuming that you or your relatives were not able to find a will in the more obvious places at your mother-in-law's home and office--desk drawers, file cabinets, closets--there are a number of other places you might try.

Some people lock away their wills in safe deposit boxes, even though survivors often do not have easy access to such a spot; check with local bank officials.

If you know your mother-in-law hired an attorney to help with any particular matter, you may also ask if that attorney helped with or knows of a will. And if you don't know whether she consulted a lawyer in her lifetime, you may consider putting a notice in a legal newspaper or state bar publication asking for an original or copy of your mother-in-law's will.

Finally, check with the local probate court. While it is rare, some people file a copy with such courts while they are still alive, just for safekeeping.