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By: Scott Grossman on May 23rd, 2022

As a Beneficiary, how do I get a copy of a Will in California?

You may be mourning a loved one who has just passed, leaving you unsure of what to do next. Losing a loved one and grieving over loss can be a difficult time. As you not only have to process losing someone so close. But also what to do next? The ordeal of having someone pass can be even worse when you have no information about your beneficiary status, their estate, or how to get a copy of a Will in California. 

At The Grossman Law Firm, we have been helping beneficiaries all around Southern California know their rights for over twenty years, helping them secure their inheritance. So what even is a “beneficiary?” A beneficiary is someone in a Will that is going to inherit part (or all) of the estate.

And how do I find out if I am a beneficiary in a California will?

The simple, practical way to get a copy of the Will is to call or write the executor. The executor is the person named in the Will that is in charge of the estate after your loved one dies. An executor of an estate should have been mailed a copy of the Will. If the executor sends you a copy, then your problem is solved.

But what happens if that isn’t the case? In this article, you will be learning: 

  • How to get a copy of a Will? 
  • What to do when the executor does not give you a copy of the Will? 
  • I think there is a Will, but I am not sure? 

How to get a copy of a Will?

With a Trust, writing a demand will ultimately result in you getting a copy of the Trust

But with Wills, it is a bit different. Writing a demand for a copy of the Will does not give you the same legal rights as obtaining a copy of a Trust. That means the executor does not have to give out a copy of the Will, even if you make a written demand. But that does not mean you can not get a copy.

Unless a probate petition’s filed earlier, the custodian (person in physical possession of the Will) within 30 days of learning of the death of the testator (the person who created the Will) must do the following:

  1. Deliver the Will to the clerk of the superior court of the county in which the estate is administered 
  2. And mail a copy of the Will to the person named in the Will as the executor

The county where the testator resided before they passed has to be the same county where the estate’s administered.  

For example, if the testator lived in Newport Beach, their Will would be delivered to the clerk of the Orange County Superior Court and filed accordingly.

A will filed with a clerk of the court is now a public record. Anyone can go to the court and purchase a copy of the Will. Copies are available for purchase starting at fifty cents per page.

What to do when the executor does not give you a copy of the Will? 

You may know that someone has a copy of the Will. You asked for a copy, but they have refused to give you one. If that’s the case, your attorney can file a petition with the probate court in the correct county alleging that a person has possession of the decedent’s Will. If the court is satisfied, your allegation is true. Then the court shall order the person to produce the Will.

Further, if the executor has filed for probate, you are either a beneficiary in the Will or an heir of the decedent. Then the executor has to give you notice of filing the probate petition. Attached to the petition as an exhibit will be (or at least should be) a copy of the Will.

I think there is a Will, but I am not sure? 

Do you believe there is a will, but you aren’t sure? Under penalty of perjury in a petition to the probate court, you may have an option to uncover if there is a Will. Your attorney could file a probate petition stating the decedent died without a will.

You will have to serve that petition on the decedent’s relatives. If someone does have the Will, they will have to file it with the court if they want to challenge your petition. Once a Will is filed, it is a public record, meaning anyone can view it. The original will stay with the court forever. Copies of the original Will are available to anyone willing to pay for it.

Need more information on the Probate Process?

If you would still like some more information, check out our comprehensive overview of California Probate Litigation, available on our website. And if you have questions about the probate process and what you should know moving forward, please call us at (951) 683-3704 or fill out our Get Help Now form.