Can I get a copy of a will?

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Can I get a copy of a will?

There is a will, but it has not been filed with the county. The executor will
not allow anyone to view the will. What actions can be taken to force the
executor to file a copy with the county?

Asked on May 17, 2019 under Estate Planning, Illinois

Answers:

SJZ, Member, New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 1 year ago | Contributor

Assuming you are, or reasonably believe yourself to be, a beneficiary under the will, if you feel that the executor is not doing his duty (e.g. not moving the case along or initiating probate; not taking reasonable steps to carry out the terms of the will; not provably following the terms of the will), you can file a kind of legal action in county court traditionally called an action "for an accounting" to, as the term implies, make the executor "account for" his actions and show that he is following the will and acting loyaly to the beneficiaries' interests and with reasonable diligence. During that legal action, there will be the ability to get a copy of the will (using the techniques of "discovery," like document production requests, available in litigation) and see if the executor is following it. If the executor is violating his duty, the court can order him to do certain things (e.g. start probate) or even replace him as executor. 
This kind of legal action is much more complicated for a layperson than, say, a small claims action; you are strongly advised to consult with a probate attorney.


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