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What Happens If I Cannot Find The Original Will?

What Happens If I Cannot Find The Original Will?


In the wake of the recent disaster left by Hurricane Harvey in Texas, I can’t help but be reminded of the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina and the effects on nearly every aspect of our lives.  One problem that was seen for years thereafter and continues to arise from time to time, was the inability to produce an original will for probate when a loved one passed away.  This begs the question, is a copy of a Last Will and Testament admissible in Court?  The answer is tricky – sometimes.


If an original Last Will and Testament cannot be produced, the presumption is that the Testator (person who makes and signs a Last Will and Testament) intentionally destroyed or revoked it.  In other words, it is possible that the decedent changed his or her mind about who gets what and tore it up.  It is also possible that the original just cannot be found among the papers of the decedent.  Or, maybe there was a disaster such as a fire, flood, or hurricane and the Will was lost or destroyed.


In any situation, in order to probate a copy of a Will, there must be an explanation why the original cannot be located and this explanation is found through tangible evidence and testimony.  The Court is then tasked with the responsibility to decide if the explanation is reasonable.  This can prove to be time consuming and costly especially if a contest between beneficiaries arises.


With the Hurricane Harvey damage and flooding, an extraordinary amount of personal paperwork and estate planning documents will be lost and destroyed just as they were after Hurricane Katrina.  Our law firm keeps a copy of every Last Will and Testament and Power of Attorney that we prepare. Take a moment to review your estate planning documents to make sure everything is in order and contact us if we can assist you in any way.