how to find out if I'm named in a will

Is a Will Public Record in Arizona? How to Find Out if You’re Named in a Will

Discovering that you have been named in someone’s will can be surprising. Whether you’re a close family member or a distant relative, understanding your status as a beneficiary can help you prepare for the future. However, it’s not always straightforward to determine whether you’ve been included in a will. Plus, it may require a waiting period. Let’s take a look at how you can find out if you’re in someone’s will. 

How to Find Out if You’re Named in a Will

A legally recognized will is a document that helps manage after-death affairs. Commonly, a will spells out the distribution of the deceased’s assets (i.e. who gets what). For this reason, Carson, who is expecting to be a beneficiary of his recently deceased aunt, says, “I want to know how to find out if I’m named in a will.” 

Carson was his aunt’s live-in caretaker and was verbally promised rights to the Arizona home they shared. Now, he wants to see if the promise was ever made concrete and legal.

When the Estate is in Probate

If the estate goes through probate, then the will is public record in Arizona. In this case, Carson would have a few options to find out if he’s named in the will. 

    1. Wait for a call from the estate’s executor
    2. If the will is in probate, visit the county probate court, or county clerk’s office
    3. Try looking up the case online via the state’s public access case-lookup system 
    4. Residents of Maricopa County can use this site to find out if they are named in a will

When the Estate Avoids Probate

However, if Carson’s aunt had a professionally prepared estate plan, her will would not be public record, because her estate would not be in probate court. This is preferable for her beneficiaries by far. Probate is a long, expensive process that can burden your loved ones. Judges and state officials shouldn’t be the ones deciding how an estate is distributed—that should be done by the estate holder before their passing.

With a proper estate plan in place, an estate attorney will deliver copies of the will to all the beneficiaries, guardians, minor children, and anyone else deemed necessary. 

Doesn’t a Will Avoid Probate?

No, a will does not avoid probate unless special measures are taken. Some people think that their will alone is sufficient enough to keep their estate out of probate. Unfortunately, a will is simply an expression of your wishes and must go through some kind of court process before the assets can be distributed to the heirs. 

Without legal preparation, a formal proceeding in court will be required to remove the decedent’s name from the property and retitle the asset in the new owner’s name. Since the owner of the property is deceased and can no longer further explain their wishes, the probate court will make the final decisions. Depending on the complexity of an estate, and whether any disputes or claims arise, this process can take months or years. 

If you want to avoid probate, it’s crucial that you set up a living trust. When set up correctly, a trust ensures that your assets will automatically transfer to your beneficiaries after you pass away.

Need to Draft Your Own Will? 

You can see how estate planning is crucial to ensuring your financial wishes are honored after your death. If Carson’s aunt had good intentions to leave him their home but failed to make it legal, Carson is in for a legal battle that may cost him dearly. 

A proper estate plan guarantees that your loved ones will be provided for in your absence. You want the maximum amount of your hard-earned assets to pass to the people you choose, not toward court fees, attorney fees, income taxes, and death taxes. Creating a well-thought-out estate plan is an act of love for your family.

Let Phelps LaClair help you take the first steps in establishing your plan today! If you’d like to draft your own will or review your estate plan, contact us today.

Learn more about estate planning by registering for our next free webinar. After attending, you’ll be able to schedule a free consultation with an estate planning attorney as our thanks.





photo by Aymane Jdidi from on 9/20/2021 | used under the creative commons license | no edits made

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