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Probate Blunder

David M. Frees, III
Attorney, Speaker and Author
Dear Attorney,

My father asked me if he could submit a copy of a will to the probate court. He had an elderly friend who had recently passed away. The woman who died told my father several times that her will was located in a specific desk drawer. After she died and my father went to find it he could only find a copy. No one has been able to find the original. Can my father submit this copy of her will to the probate court and what does it mean?

Dear Will Confusion,

Rules vary state to state, but if all you can find is a copy of a will, submit that to the probate court. You will   have to prove to the court that this is the authentic last will of the person who died and that there was no other original will floating around. You will probably have to call witnesses who can testify about the circumstances under which the will was made and provide evidence that the will was never revoked. Unfortunately, none of that is easy or cheap.
 To avoid a situation like your fathers friend  make sure you and a trusted family member or friend know where your original documents are and keep them in a safe and accessible spot.