What happens when the original copyof a Will is lost?

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What happens when the original copyof a Will is lost?

My father passed away and left a Will. Both his and my mother’s Will were in a safe place together but all of the sudden after he passed his original Will is missing. Now my mother refuses to let me see the copies of the Will and she and my brothers (my father’s son and one of her sons from her first marriage) are hiring a lawyer for her to change my father’s Will. First off, can I obtain a copy of the Will from my father’s lawyer? Secondly, how can they change my father’s Will if he left anything to me and or my children? Also, not even a week after my father died they wanted to upgrade the house and sell it right away. I have contacted my dad’s lawyers to have a sit down with them because I never had the opportunity, although my mom and brother have. However the lawyers never return my phone calls. I do not know anything about Wills and I would like them to walk me through the process. How do I go about this?

Asked on July 5, 2011 under Estate Planning, New Jersey

Answers:

M.T.G., Member, New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 10 years ago | Contributor

I am so sorry for your loss and for your situation.  First, you need to hire an attorney that is not involved with this process at all.  And right away.  The attorney needs to contact your Father's attorney as to a copy of the original Will.  There is a process in every state for lost Wills and proving a copy as an original.  It is an arduous task but it can be done.  Now, they can not change the Will and if his attorney tries then he could be in big trouble.  Although I do not know the particulars about the estate and how the assets are held (i.e., with his wife), I do know that if the Will is lost and can not be proven you would inherit under the intestacy statute in the state.  Good luck to you.


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