Admitting a Lost Will to Probate

Although it is not always possible to prevent a disgruntled family member from contesting a will,  there are steps that testators can take to help reduce the chances of a will contest. Unfortunately, even when testators are careful to abide by all procedural rules, their efforts may come to nothing if the family members are unable to locate the will after the testator’s death. Although it is possible for a person’s assets to be distributed after their death without a will, the probate process will become much more time-consuming and complex, so if you are considering planning your own estate, it is critical to speak with an experienced contested estates attorney who can help ensure that your will or trust is created in compliance with state law and is stored in a safe place where it can immediately be located.

Overcoming the Presumption of Revocation

If a will cannot be found, it is usually presumed that it was destroyed and revoked by the testator. However, in some cases, it is possible to probate a lost will, although it will require the decedent’s heirs to provide clear and convincing evidence that the original will was valid even though it is not present. Examples of extenuating circumstances that may convince a court to allow a lost will to be entered into probate include:

  • Evidence that the home where the document was located was destroyed by a fire or a natural disaster, which also caused the testator’s death;
  • Evidence that the will was created and stored in a specific location; and
  • Evidence that the will was actually destroyed after the testator’s death.

Essentially, the decedent’s heirs must be able to demonstrate that the testator was not actually involved in destroying or hiding the original will. Only then will a court be willing to allow a decedent’s heirs to present a copy of the original will into probate. If the contents of a will basically followed state intestacy law and all heirs agree that a digital copy should be accepted, a probate court may even be willing to admit the document to probate without a hearing.

Contact a Dedicated Contested Estates Attorney Today

Although it is possible to have a lost will admitted to probate, avoiding this type of situation and ensuring that all important estate planning documents are stored in a flood and fire-proof location where they can easily and quickly be found by a testator’s descendants is the best way to make sure that the decedent’s final wishes are respected. If you have lost your will or another estate planning document and have questions about what you should do next, please contact one of the experienced Highland Park contested estates attorneys at Orlowsky & Wilson, Ltd. Attorneys at Law by calling 847-325-5559 today. You can also reach our office by initiating a live chat with a dedicated member of our legal team or by completing and submitting one of our standard contact forms. We have offices in Chicago, Northfield, and Lincolnshire and are happy to address all of your estate-related questions or concerns.

Updated as of July 2019
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