If my aunt died 3 years ago, how can I find out if she left a Will?

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If my aunt died 3 years ago, how can I find out if she left a Will?

I’ve discovered that she has money in several bank accounts.

Asked on July 27, 2012 under Estate Planning, New York

Answers:

Mark Siegel / Law Office of Mark A. Siegel

Answered 8 years ago | Contributor

If your aunt had a will at the time of her death and the original will was filed in Surrogate's Court in connection with a probate proceeding, you might check with the Probate Clerk's Office in Surrogate's Court, in the county where your aunt resided at the time of her death.

However, NY's Surrogate's Court Procedure Act §1403. provides in part, that some of the parties required to be served with legal process in a proceeding to probate a will include, (in addition to other persons listed in this law) "...the following persons if not petitioners:
    (a)  The distributees of the testator.
    (b)  The person or persons designated in the will as  executor..."

If you were named in your aunt's will as a distributee or as executor, then service of legal process would have to be made upon you, as provided by law, if a proceeding to probate her will had been commenced. If not, then unless you are one of the persons required to be served with process under any of the other sub-sections contained in §1403, it is not likely that you would have been served with legal notice of a probate proceeding. Checking with the Probate Clerk's Office in Surrogate's Court, may provide you with some useful information.

It's also possible that your aunt died without a will, in which case the distribution of her property would be governed by §4-1.1 of the NY Estates Powers and Trusts Law, which provides for the descent and distribution of the property of a decedent's estate.   


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