Monday, March 14, 2011

Finding a Last Will and Testament in Alaska

Question: My father lived in Juneau and he passed away a few years ago. I would like to find his will. Where do I start?

Answer: Below are several methods you can use to search for your father’s will. These are not necessarily all of the possible methods, and this information does not constitute legal advice. You may wish to consult a lawyer for assistance in matters concerning your father's death, his last will and testament, or his estate. The Alaska Bar Association offers a directory of bar members and a lawyer referral service.

If your father made a will, you may find a copy of it in Alaska’s court records. A person who has made a will in Alaska can deposit it with the court while they are still living. For more information about this process, see the publication "Depositing Your Will" from the Alaska Court System.

In addition, if your father's estate was probated or subject to other types of court proceedings, you may find a copy of his will in the court case file. In Alaska, the Superior Court handles probate cases. To determine whether a case file relating to your father exists, search Alaska’s trial court case record database, called CourtView. Try entering just your father’s name to conduct a broad search. If you see your father’s name, you can identify the type of case he was involved in using letters in the case number. More information about case numbers is published at http://www.courts.alaska.gov/cvinfo/#numbers. Probate case numbers have “PR” as a suffix and case numbers representing the simple deposit of a will include “WI” as a suffix.

You can also contact the Superior Court for assistance in searching CourtView and ordering a copy of the will should you find a court case relating to your father’s will or estate. Contact information for the Superior Court in Juneau is published at http://www.courts.alaska.gov/ctrecs.htm#jun. Information about ordering court records is published at http://courts.alaska.gov/trialcourts/trialcts.htm#recs.

If a lawyer assisted your father with his will, the lawyer may have it. It is also possible that another member of the family may have the will, or it may still be among your father's belongings. People sometimes keep wills in safe deposit boxes, but since it has been years since your father’s death, such a box may no longer exist.