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What if I Can’t Find My Parent’s Will?

08/23/2023 | Blog, Estate Planning

When a parent dies, it can be a chaotic and painful time. Even when a death is expected, coping with such a significant loss can be difficult. Especially while attending to loved ones as you make final arrangements. Another challenge may arise when the time comes to manage your mother or father’s estate, and you can’t locate their will. Without this crucial document, their belongings will pass according to California law rather than their preferences. So, what if I can’t find my parents will?

Communicating with Your Family

If you can’t find your parents will and are reasonably sure there is one, don’t panic. Your family members may end up being a good place to start your search. Parents sometimes feel uncomfortable talking to their adult kids about their estate plans. It may be the finality of death or not wanting to upset their children. Whatever the case may be, the lack of communication may mean that your parent shared information and instructions with another family member or close friend. Consider whom your parent may have felt close to and would have considered confiding in about the location of their will. If you have a sibling or other relative that may have information, contact them, and ask if they can think of a location where your parent may have stored essential documents.


During the course of your investigation, you may find that someone in the family has a copy of the will. Perhaps a sibling, aunt, or uncle will tell you that they have the document, but you have been disinherited. If there is indeed a will, it must be filed with a California probate court to be deemed valid and for your parent’s estate to be divided through the probate process. California law provides that as an “heir-in-law,” or someone who would inherit under the law, you must be notified of the probate proceedings. You can also request a copy of the will. Therefore, you will be able to verify this information and, if you believe it to be inaccurate, possibly contest the will.

Your Parent’s Estate Planning Attorney

If your parent had a California estate planning attorney, you could call their office and let them know your parent has passed away and that you are looking for their will. The attorney may have a copy of the will.

Check your Parent’s Home Carefully

Even in an age where many of us are storing data in the cloud, or at least on hard drives, some people prefer to keep paper copies of their wills stored in file cabinets, desk drawers, and in other corners of their homes. Wills have even been known to turn up in between couch cushions and under furniture. Take the time to go through your parent’s home and paperwork carefully and make sure there are no stray documents. During your search, you may also learn that your parent had a safe deposit box or another receptacle where you may locate the will.

Probating Without the Will

If, after an exhaustive search, you have looked high and low and cannot find your parents will, you may not have any choice but to proceed without one. The estate will go through probate according to intestate succession, meaning it will pass to you and your parent’s other heirs according to California law.

Contact a California Probate Attorney

If you cannot locate your parents will, contact a California probate attorney. Your counsel can work with you to help you consider the steps to search for your parents will and assist you during the probate process.

At the Law Offices of Alice A. Salvo, we are experienced California probate attorneys who can help you evaluate your situation and determine the best solutions. Contact us today to schedule your free consultation.