Who is Given a Copy of the Will When Somebody Passes Away?

Who is Given a Copy of the Will When Somebody Passes Away?

If the will specifically mentions you or your family, you may be given a copy

If a member of your family passes away, you might wonder when you will receive a copy of the deceased person’s last will. However, there is no mandate that a be read aloud to a group or presented to the family as a whole in any way, shape, or form. In general, it is up to the executor of the estate to decide who will get a copy of the will, even though the procedures and laws governing this matter vary from state to state. Additionally, they may distribute copies in certain states to individuals immediately affected by the will’s provisions.

Find out more about who is given a copy of the will after the death of a loved one and how you might be able to get a copy of the will for yourself.

Key Takeaways

  • If someone knows that you will be managing their estate as executor or trustee, they may give you a copy of their will before they pass away.
  • Wills can typically be found in one of the following locations: a safe deposit box, a home safe, the office of an estate attorney, or the Register of Wills office.
  • It is then a matter of public record once a will has been validated through the probate process.
  • In most instances, only the individuals who will be directly impacted by a will, such as beneficiaries, trustees, or heirs-at-law, are given a copy of the will.

Where Can I Look for the Last Will and Testament of a Loved One?

If a loved one has included you as a beneficiary in their will, they may have given you prior notice of the event. You may have gotten a copy of the will if you are serving as the executor or trustee of the estate, or they may have informed you of its location. The majority of people also store their wills in a secure location, such as:

  • A safe deposit box at a bank
  • A safe for the home
  • Personal files
  • With the help of a lawyer specializing in estate planning

The steps you must take to access the safe deposit box of a deceased loved one at a bank can vary from state to state. In the state of Virginia, for example, in order to remove testamentary documents such as a will from the estate of a deceased person, you are required to have documentation proving that you are their next of kin as well as a certificate of the deceased person’s death.

If you need to look for a will, you can check with the state Register of Wills or the probate court to see if the will has already been filed. If it has, you won’t have to look any further. For example, a person can pay a one-time filing fee in Maryland to securely store their will. After that, it is placed in a sealed envelope and kept there until it is either returned to the person who originally filed it or, in the event of the person’s passing, their representatives.

Following the passing of a loved one, the will of that person is typically submitted to the state’s probate court. Although it’s possible that you won’t be able to see the entire will, you should be able to submit a request to the court asking to be shown which documents have been submitted to the court. Wills submitted to the probate court become part of the public record.

You might be able to determine the executor of the estate by looking at the person’s death certificate, even if you are not the executor yourself. Typically, this is done through the county registrar’s office.

Who Does the Copy of the Will Go To?

Probate is the legal process through which a will is validated after the decedent has passed away. It is up to the state where the deceased person resided to determine how a will is to be processed and administered after death. If the will were registered, the state would likely notify the person’s heirs at law and any executor named in the will. If there is no executor named in the will, either the state will appoint one, or the heirs by law will be responsible for carrying out the wishes of the deceased.

In most cases, it is the executor’s responsibility to select the individuals who will be given a copy of the will. In most instances, these will be individuals who are immediately impacted by the provisions of the law. This can include the following

  • The estate’s executor
  • Trustees
  • Beneficiaries
  • Those who were a beneficiary in the past, such as heirs-at-law
  • An individual who holds power of attorney in medical matters
  • One who keeps financial records
  • Taxing authorities who are at the federal and state levels


The executor’s duty is to distribute the estate assets per the terms of the will. This includes ensuring that the beneficiaries receive their inheritances and paying any taxes and other expenses that may arise, selling any property that needs to be sold, and transferring assets into a trust if one already exists. The terms of the will explain how this is supposed to take place; the executor of the will will need a copy of the will in order to carry out the wishes of the person who has passed away.

Additionally, a will may stipulate that the executor is entitled to a fee or bequest in exchange for the time they devote to the administration and settlement of the estate.


In the event that the deceased person established a revocable living trust but did not provide sufficient funding for the trust, those will provide the trust with the necessary funds after their passing. Typically, any property that isn’t already included in the trust is transferred over to it, or the trust is designated as the beneficiary on various accounts, including banking, investment, and others. This type of will is often known as a pour-over will, and it enables the estate to avoid the probate process.

Following this, the will designates a trustee, or more than one trustee, to oversee the administration of the trust on behalf of the beneficiaries of the trust. A copy of the will is required by law to be given to each trustee in order for them to carry out their duties effectively.

It’s possible that the same person will serve as both the trustee and the executor in some situations. They could also be two distinct individuals who are required to collaborate to fulfill the will’s requirements.


One should give a copy of the will to all of the beneficiaries named in it. This gives them the ability to comprehend any bequests that have been established for them and any trusts that have been set up for them. If any of the beneficiaries are children under the age of 18, the will needs to identify a legal guardian for them. A copy of the will should also be given to the child’s guardian so that they can safeguard the child’s interests and ensure that any bequests are carried out according to their terms.

Those who were a beneficiary in the past, such as heirs-at-law

It is possible that previous beneficiaries who have since been written out of the will or heirs-at-law who have been disinherited could contest the will. Alternatively, the will could be contested by heirs-at-law who have been disinherited. This is what would happen if they wished to prove that the current will isn’t valid and that they should have been included as beneficiaries. 

However, many states have laws restricting how long someone has to challenge a will. For instance, in California, those with legal standing can contest a will for up to one hundred and twenty days after it has been submitted to the probate court. It is possible for an executor to send copies of the will to anyone with legal standing to contest the will to initiate the clock on this time limit and reduce the likelihood that a will contest will occur.

The definition of an heir-at-law can vary from state to state. They are typically individuals who were so closely related to the deceased person that, in the absence of a will, they would have been the ones to inherit the estate. This might be a spouse, children, grandchildren, parents, or siblings. It could even be grandparents.

An individual who holds power of attorney in medical matters

Whoever was given the authority to make medical decisions on behalf of another person is the only person who can legally claim a body for funeral services in some states. For instance, in the state of Kansas, if more than one person attempts to claim the body of a deceased person, the holder of a durable power of attorney for medical decisions is given priority over all others, including a spouse or children. This would be the case even if the law gave a power of attorney to the person to make medical decisions.

If the individual with power of attorney is in charge of making funeral arrangements, then that person will need to have a copy of the will to understand the wishes of the person who passed away.

One who keeps financial records

A will could possibly appoint an accountant to handle debts and taxes, or the executor may hire an accountant independently. In the event that this occurs, the accountant will require a copy of the will in order to comprehend:

  • The manner in which they dispersed the assets among the beneficiaries
  • Any assets are put into a trust, and any existing debts are paid off.
  • The combined total of the federal, state, and local tax burden

Taxing Authorities Who Are at the Federal and State Levels

It is possible that the estate will owe taxes at either the state or the federal level, depending on the size of the estate. If the estate is subject to taxation, one must also submit a copy of the will to the state’s relevant taxation authority and the Internal Revenue Service.

An estate tax is imposed by the government of twelve states and the District of Columbia. The amount of an estate that is exempt from paying federal estate taxes will increase to $12.06 million in 2022. Estates that are worth more than this amount do not have to pay federal estate taxes. However, states that do levy an estate tax typically have exemption levels that are significantly lower. If an estate’s value, when combined with the value of any taxable gifts made in the preceding two years, is greater than $4.25 million, for example, the estate is required to pay estate taxes in Vermont.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

What takes place after the death of a person who has not left a will?

The deceased person’s next of kin will receive the assets. Who is considered the deceased person’s next of kin may vary depending on the state in which the person lived and passed away. However, in the majority of situations, the deceased person’s spouse would be considered the first in line, and if there were no spouse, the children of the deceased person would be considered the first in line. The laws of intestate succession in a state will determine who comes next in line for an inheritance.

Is a will written by someone who is not a lawyer valid?

It is possible to get a will legally recognized without the assistance of a lawyer. You can make your own will, or you can use one of the available online will makers. In order for a will to be valid in your state, you will need to research the specific requirements that you must meet. You will be required to put your intentions in writing, sign your will, and have at least two witnesses present when you do so.

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