When a family member passes away, it can be difficult to know what type of records they had in their possession. You usually need this information before you start planning a probate administration. If you don’t know where to begin, take a look at the list below for some guidance on what you should look for when someone dies.

Records to Locate

When someone dies, their heirs and other interested parties have to piece together the information needed to wrap up the decedent’s last affairs. There are a number of different records that should be secured. It often takes a bit of detective work to identify and locate the records that are needed.

At a minimum, a search should be performed for the following documents at the decedent’s residence, business, etc.:

  1. The legal documents, including wills and trusts, birth certificates and Social Security cards (for the decedent and children), marriage licenses and divorce decrees, military discharge paperwork, and immigration paperwork.
  2. Prior year tax returns.
  3. Any asset and title paperwork, such as car registration paperwork and division orders for mineral interests.
  4. Evidence of any debts and written evidence as to the amount of the debts.
  5. Evidence of any health and life insurance policies that may pay out.
  6. Evidence of any liability insurance policies that may cover lost property.
  7. Evidence of any open credit or service accounts that need to be terminated, in addition to Social Security or other government benefits.
  8. Evidence of any lawsuits that are pending, judgments, or liens.
  9. Names and contact numbers for others who may know if the decedent’s assets or financial affairs, such as insurance agents, financial planners, investment advisors, attorneys and accountants.

The search should include a search for paper and electronic records.

These records should be reviewed for any indication as to other accounts or assets. For example, the decedent’s income tax returns should be evaluated to see if there are bank accounts reporting interest received, retirement accounts or annuities that are paying out money reported as income, brokerage accounts reflecting gains and losses, real estate mortgages, etc.

The Decedent’s Mail and Post Office Box

Many of the decedent’s records can be located by monitoring the mail that comes in. If the decedent had their mail sent to their house and you live nearby, this is a relatively easy process.

It may also be possible–and advisable–to file a change of address form with the local post office to direct the mail to another location. The change of address form can also be used to have mail forwarded from a post office box. The U.S. Postal Service may require letters testamentary (which are obtained as part of the probate process) to make this change.

Locating the Original Will

Locating the original will often presents special challenges.

Most people keep their will with their important papers. This may be in a safe in their home or in a safety deposit box in a bank. The decedent may have also lodged the will with the local county or probate clerk in the county in which they reside for safekeeping (while Texas law allows for this, very few people actually use this option).

It may also be necessary to contact the decedent’s family and friends to see if they have a copy of the will or know of its whereabouts. If these efforts fail, it may be helpful to ask the decedent’s family members whether the decedent had hired an attorney to prepare a will or used a particular attorney for any matter. It may also be advisable to send a letter to attorneys the decedent may have employed to prepare a will.

If the will names a corporate fiduciary or trustee, this entity or person may know the whereabouts of the original will. This entity or person may be located by inquiring with the decedent’s insurance agents, financial advisors, banks, accountants, etc.

What to Do With the Original Will

Once located, Texas law requires the custodian of an original will to deliver the will to the court that has jurisdiction over the estate. If the custodian does not deliver the will, an interested party can ask the probate court to order the production of the will. The probate court then has the authority to arrest and hold the person in custody until they produce the will.

The lodging of the will with the court alerts the clerk to notify the person named as executor in the will, of the existence of the will. The clerk will then deliver the will to the executor upon request. If the executor does not respond to the clerk within 31 days or if no executor is named in the will, the clerk will then notify the heirs listed in the will.

Hire an Experienced Probate Attorney

Do you need help with a probate matter in Texas? We are experienced probate attorneys who represent clients with sensitive probate matters. If so, please give us a call at (210) 436-6601 for a FREE attorney consultation. We can help with your probate matter.


Related questions

Are death certificates public record?

In the state of Texas, death certificates are considered public records. This means that anyone can request a copy of a death certificate, as long as they have the proper identification and meet the required criteria.

However, there are some restrictions on who can obtain a copy of a death certificate. For example, only immediate family members or legal representatives are typically allowed to request copies of death certificates. In addition, death certificates are not typically released until after the deceased has been buried or cremated.

If you need to obtain a copy of a death certificate in the state of Texas, you should contact the county clerk’s office where the deceased person was pronounced dead. You will need to provide identification and proof of your relationship to the deceased person. You may also be required to pay a fee for the copy of the death certificate.

How to find out if someone died?

There are a few different ways to find out if someone has died in Texas. One way is to search the Texas Death Index, which is a database of death certificates. Another way is to search the obituaries section of local newspapers. You can also try searching online death records databases.

Once you have confirmed that the person has died, you will need to obtain a copy of the death certificate. This can be done through the county clerk’s office where the death occurred. You will need to provide identification and pay a fee for the certificate.

How to find marriage records?

To find marriage records in Texas, you can start by searching the Texas Department of State Health Services website. You can also search for marriage records at the county level. Each county has a different process for requesting marriage records. You can usually find this information on the county clerk’s website.

How to check marriage records for free?

If you need to check marriage records in Texas, there are a few ways to do it. One way is to go to the county clerk’s office where the marriage took place and ask for a copy of the marriage certificate. Another way is to go to the Texas Department of Health and Human Services website and search for the marriage record. Both of these methods will require you to pay a fee.

If you want to check marriage records for free, you can try searching for them online. There are a few websites that offer free public records searches, but they may not have all of the records you’re looking for. You can also try searching for the records on the Texas Department of State website. However, keep in mind that these records may not be up-to-date or complete.

How to obtain a death certificate?

You can obtain a death certificate from the county clerk’s office where the death occurred. The death certificate will list the cause of death and the date and place of death. You will need to provide the clerk with the deceased person’s full name, date of birth, and Social Security number. There is a fee for the death certificate.

How to find birth records free online?

There are a few ways to find birth records free online. One way is to search for the records on the website of the Texas Department of Health and Human Services. Another way is to search for the records on the website of the Texas Vital Statistics office. Finally, you can also search for the records on the website of the Texas Department of State.

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