Where to Find Last Will and Testaments

When a person passes away, their Last Will and Testament is an important document that needs to be filed in the appropriate courthouse. Generally, this is the courthouse in the county where the decedent last resided and intended to stay. The will is typically labeled with a title such as 'Last Will and Testament of John T. Smith'.

It may be stapled to a stiff sheet of colored paper or placed in a thick envelope with the label printed on it. Wills are usually filed in probate courts based on the county of residence of the deceased person at the time of death, or the county in which they owned real property. The will is then submitted to the clerk of the probate court in that county for processing. Once filed, any member of the public can view or obtain a copy of the will.

According to Section 5.15 of the Secretary of State Act, anyone who has possession of a will must file it with the clerk of court within 30 days of learning about the testator's death. If someone deliberately alters or destroys a will without permission, or deliberately hides it during this period, they can be convicted and sentenced as if they had committed a felony. This 30-day period does not apply to the Secretary of State when acting according to Section 5.15. The best way to view a will is to get the probate court file number from either the executor or by phone, online, or in person at the court by providing the name and date of death of the deceased person. If a will has not been submitted for probate yet, it is not considered a public court record.