How does one find out which local lawyer has granny's will? (She's senile hence no help.)

The story, in a nutshell: we’re 99% sure that my wife’s grandmother has a will, and that it was drawn up by a lawyer in her town. Her memory’s been going for years, and she has no idea which lawyer wrote it up. She’s a fairly serious pack-rat, and finding a copy of the will among her papers would be an arduous task - assuming she has a copy somewhere in her possession.

She’s not in bad physical health for an 88 year old woman, so the need to locate the will isn’t urgent, but since we’re anticipating a need to put her in a nursing home in the next 3-6 months due to her reduced mental capacity, we’re trying to take care of as much of the planning and organizing of such things as possible.

So is there any semi-systematic way to locate the will without having to call several dozen lawyers’ offices to find out if they were the ones who did the will? Do lawyers have listservs or some equivalent that might simplify the task of alerting the local lawyers that we’re looking for grandma’s will?

She clearly lacks testamentary capacity at this point, so drawing up a new will isn’t an option.

Would it really take so long to print off a dozen copies of a letter of enquiry and send them out? How urgently do you need an answer?

More like several dozen, and not very urgently.

AFAICT, the need wouldn’t be urgent unless she either had died, or was on her deathbed. I expect her to be alive and kickin’ for some time; just wish her brain had held out as well as her body has.

Do you know how she would have found a lawyer in the first place? Was she the ‘open the yellow pages’ type or the ‘ask someone for a recommendation’ type? If you know who she would have trusted for a recommendation a few years ago, you could go ask them.

Or if her bank records are relatively complete you could look for payments to law firms.

Do you have power of attorney or some sort of guardianship for her? I am not an estates lawyer, but it occurs to me that such lawyers might be wary about responding to inquiries from prospective heirs.

(Please don’t mistake me; I’m not trying to insinuate that your intentions are anything other than in her best interests. I’m just saying that the lawyer might feel obliged to be a bit professionally suspicious toward everyone).

There must be some service or process that notifies lawyers about their client’s death. Invariably it seems like a lawyer waving a will pops up not long after their client dies.

The lawyer is often the executor of the will. There has to be a better way then reading the daily obituaries for lawyers to know when to produce the will.

I wonder what happens when your lawyer dies? What happens to all those wills he’s supposed to administer?

I’ve prepared a few wills, and I’ve never retained the original. In my area, the usual practice is to give the original to the client in a fancy-looking cardboard foldy-thing. My former secretary could probably tell you what the above and aforesaid foldy-thing is actually called.

The wills I’ve done generally nominated a friend or family member to be the Administrator, and often named an alternate in case that person was unable or unwilling to serve. A lawyer might handle the probate stuff in court, but usually not the actual administration of the will.

Odds are good I would not respond to anyone inquiring about whether I’d prepared a will for a client or former client unless they were a court appointed guardian/conservator.

Many county governments offer a service where you can deposit a copy of your will with them for safekeeping, and so there is q known location for it. Might be worth checking to see if a copy is on record in her county.

This makes me think of someone I know over here who claims his brother suppressed their father’s will after the father died. Meaning the brother just denied there was a will at all despite my friend having accompanied the father himself to a lawyer to have one drawn up. Claims the brother didn’t even send word of the father’s death. Instead, he learned of it from a cousin who didn’t even know my friend was unaware of it. Mentioned it in passing, I think.

I told him if he contacted the lawyer, there must be a copy on file. But what if the brother claims there was another will that abrogates that one? These things must be kept on file in some central registry somewhere, surely? My friend claims to be trying to sic the FBI on his brother for suppressing the will. As you can tell, this is not a happy family.

Not in my jurisdiction.

I understand perfectly. As it happens, my wife holds a general power of attorney to handle her grandmother’s affairs, all properly executed, witnessed, and notarized per Florida law a few years ago when grandma was still mostly with it, but you could see where things were headed.

We really should have asked about the will back then. We really don’t give a flip what’s in it (grandma doesn’t have much money, she doesn’t even have much equity in her home, we’re mostly propping her up financially anyway, and when she goes into the nursing home, Medicaid will presumably suck up most of what’s left besides), just that it would be nice to know who’s got either the will itself or a copy.

In addition to the suggestions above, also ask the local bar association to do a broacast email to the lawyers in the area.

Really doubt they’d do that. I’ve never heard of such a thing in my 17 years of practice.

I get several a week from my district bar association.

Asking “who drafted a will for (name here)?”

Yup. Here’s an edited example of one that came down the pipe yesterday, looking for a Power of Attorney.

It helps families in difficult times find necessary testamentary documents without spending days calling law offices, and it reduces the time wasted by law offices dealing with telephone inquiries.

Huh. Interesting. All I ever get via email from the bar are the weekly newsletter and CLE announcements.

Same experience as Muffin - the Law Society of Saskatchewan sends out a monthly mailing to all members, and invariably each month there’s a sheet entitled “Looking for lost wills” with the name of the individual, age, possible municipality where the will might have been drawn up, possible date, and so on. If one of the entries rings a bell with a lawyer, he/she contacts the Law Society, which in turn gets back to the family.

I get a couple of e-mails a month from the State Bar (Wyoming has a small bar) asking if anyone knows the location of a will or a power of attorney. I always keep an original of all my client’s estate planning documents - and it has come in handy numerous times, including Contingent Medical Power of Attorneys faxed to a hospital in another state at 2:00 in the morning when a client got in a car accident while on vacation.

Why would the OP need the original document? Wouldn’t a 20-year-old Xeroxed copy from your archived files be just as good?(assuming there are no legal challenges, family feuds, disputed issues,etc)

And more importantly:
In the name of fighting ignorance, and in the name of all that is holy----please, please, please tell us more about that fancy-looking foldy-thing!!! :slight_smile: