What Do I Do If I Lost an Original Will?
Houstonians lost many valuable papers during the flood of Hurricane Harvey. Some of these papers are relatively easy to replace. But others are not, such as an original will. It can be an expensive nuisance to have a new will prepared. That is one reason why you should keep your original will in a safe place, like a safe deposit box, a fire-proof safe upstairs, or in your estate planning attorney’s will vault. You can also deposit your original will with the county clerk’s office for $5. The clerk will store your original will and only release it to you during your lifetime. After you die, the clerk will only release it to the people whose names are written on the outside of the envelope containing the original will.
If someone has died and the original will cannot be found, you should check with the county clerk to see if it is on deposit there. If not, you should contact the attorney who drafted the will to see if it is in their will vault. You should also check the decedent’s safe deposit box. If all that fails and the original will simply cannot be found, you should try to locate a copy of the original will. A copy of a will can be probated as long as someone can identify it as the decedent’s last will. But what if the will is completely lost, and no copy exists? Texas law provides for a special procedure for lost or missing wills.
First, someone must file an application to probate the missing will. They must be able to show the court that there is a good reason that the will is missing. Having a will swept away in Hurricane Harvey is certainly a good reason. Next, one or more credible witnesses must tell the court what the missing will said. The witnesses can be the lawyer who drafted the will, a family member who read the will, or anyone else who was familiar with its contents. You must also tell the court who the testator’s family is and who the named beneficiaries are in the lost will. You should also be prepared to offer testimony that the decedent did not revoke the lost will. While all this can be a challenge, if you can prove the contents of the missing will by credible testimony, the missing will can be admitted to probate.
To schedule an initial consultation or begin building your case, contact tax attorneys in Houston at Cantrell & Cantrell today.