Lost Will and TestamentThe emotional time following the death of a loved one is never easy, and trying to sort through estate paperwork -- wills, trusts, financial accounts and other legal papers -- can be daunting. When an estate is well organized, heirs and relatives will have easy access to these documents, but that is not always the case. Some individuals may not be able to locate the will and testament or they may suspect that a newer, more up-to-date, will was created prior to their loved one's death and subsequently lost.

Important Places to Look for a Will

When trying to hunt down a will, individuals may want to check with the local court clerk's office. Estate planners can deposit a will with the local clerk of court, who will hold the document on file and keep it available for heirs in the event of the individual's passing. Still, numerous individuals never get around to filing their will with the clerk and contacting the clerk's office may not prove fruitful.

Other places to look include any areas where financial, accounting, tax and legal papers are normally stored. For example, a will might be found inside a safety deposit box at a bank. Alternatively, a filing cabinet or desk drawer would be obvious places to investigate. As a final strategy, by contacting the individual's attorney, relatives may be able to secure a copy of the will.

What to Do When the Will Is Found

Once the will is found, the problems do not stop there. The court must accept the will into probate. Certain limitations may prevent a will from being admitted, though, such as time limits that allow for a specific amount of time to submit a will for consideration. Time limitations also apply when heirs want to challenge a will with an earlier or later version of the document.

When it comes to contesting a will, an estate planning lawyer can prove invaluable to identify one's legal rights and what legal strategies are best suited to achieve one's goals. The outcome of such a case cannot be predicted with 100 percent certainty; however, courts do try to carry out the deceased individual's wishes whenever they are clear and in accordance with the law.