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What To Do If You Cannot Find The Original Will


To probate a Will in New Jersey, the Executor named in the Will must take the original Will, along an original, sealed death certificate to the Surrogate in the county where the deceased passed and complete the necessary forms to probate the Will.  But what of the Executor cannot find the original Will?  The process becomes a bit more entailed and may require the assistance of an attorney.

If the original Will cannot be located, the Executor must file a Verified Complaint and Order to Show Cause in the Superior Court requesting that the Probate Judge enter an Order permitting the probate of the copy of the Will.  Along with the Complaint, the Court will require a Certification from the Executor explaining the last known location of the original Will and any details of how it was misplaced, lost or destroyed.  The more information the Executor can provide about the last location of the Will and efforts made to locate the Will, the more likely the Court will authorize probate of the copy of the Will.

Once the Order is entered permitting the probate of the copy of the Will, the Executor will present the Order and original death certificate to the Surrogate who will probate the Will and issues Letters Testamentary to the Executor so the Estate can be administered.

Alternatively, the person named Executor in the Will, or any heir, can proceed without the Will and apply to the Court to be appointed Administrator of the Estate.  If the beneficiaries will be the same as were under the Will and the distribution of the Estate assets will be the same as were under the Will, then it may be an option to proceed as if the Will did not exist since an application to the Court will not be required.  

However, when the Court appoints an Administrator to administer the Estate, a bond is generally required, with the amount based on the estimated size of the Estate.  If the value of the Estate is large, the bond could be costly – as much as a few thousand dollars.  While the Surrogate may waive the bond in certain instances such as when the Administrator is the surviving spouse, a bond is generally required  to be obtained and remain in place until the Estate is fully administered and Refunding Bonds and Releases filed with the Surrogate.

For more information and advice on how to proceed when you cannot find the original, please call the Law Office of Edward Murachanian for a consultation.



Date: August 02, 2023