Step by step instructions on how to find a Last Will and Testament
Are all Wills in the court records?
No. If the deceased's estate consisted ONLY of real estate (e.g., farmers), the original Will may have been deposited in the local Land Registry Office to transfer the land to the heirs. Some Land Registry Offices hold over 60% of all surviving Wills. Because they were never probated, these Wills are not indexed or registered in the court records. Consult Inventory 61 (Private Property Registrations) for further details.
Why should I be looking for an "Estate File" rather than a Will?
An Estate File contains the documents used by the Surrogate Court to disperse the deceased's estate, whether he/she died with (testate) or without (intestate) a Will. The contents can include: Petition for Probate (with Will) or Administration (without Will), the original Will, the executors' or administrators' oaths, and an inventory of the assets (see the glossary at the end of this Guide for further details).