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How to Track Down a Missing Will

Wills-trusts-and-estates-covered"Wills and trusts have been found hidden in rafters and in freezers, to name but a few interesting hiding places."

You know that your mom had a will and a trust, but where is it? What if you can't find any copies and have no idea who her attorney was? How can you find these estate planning documents?

The article, "What steps to take when you lose a will," from New Jersey 101.5 says there are plenty of clues you can use to track this down.

If your mom has passed away, first be certain that a will hasn't already been probated. Contact the probate court in the county where your mother lived at the time of her death. These records are public.

Next, search your mom's papers to see where she did her banking. See if she had a safe deposit box at the bank. Also, take a look at your mother's checkbook or bank statements to find out whether she paid an estate planning attorney. Hopefully, the attorney will have the original will and trust or a signed copy of them.

Your mom may have held onto business cards or letters from a financial advisor who may know the location of a trust. Tax returns should also be reviewed to see if there's information about a trust.

Maybe your mom hid the documents. She would not be the first to do so.

You could also reach out to relatives and close friends to see if they know whether your mom ever consulted with an estate planning attorney or a financial advisor. Even if you find an unsigned copy of the will, an attorney may be able to help you get the estate probated.

One caveat to this: even if you locate the documents, you may not be able to get information from the attorney or the bank if you weren't appointed as executor or trustee. An attorney can assist you with applying to the probate court to be appointed as an administrator.

Reference: New Jersey 101.5 (January 13, 2016) "What steps to take when you lose a will"

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