Can I Get a Copy of a Will After Probate?

Written by True Tamplin, BSc, CEPF®

Reviewed by Subject Matter Experts

Updated on June 29, 2023

Get Any Financial Question Answered

Can I Get a Copy of a Will After Probate?

After an individual passes away, their estate usually undergoes a legal process called probate. Probate involves validating the will, resolving debts, paying taxes, and ultimately distributing the assets to the beneficiaries according to the instructions outlined in the will.

In general, once the probate process is complete, the will becomes a public record and can be accessed by anyone. This means that you should be able to obtain a copy of a will after probate.

However, the exact process for obtaining a copy may vary depending on the jurisdiction and local laws.

To obtain a copy of a will after probate, you can typically contact the probate court where the will was filed and request a copy.

Some jurisdictions may require you to submit a formal request, pay a fee, or provide proof of your relationship to the deceased person.

The availability of a copy of the will after probate may also depend on the specific circumstances and any restrictions or provisions included in the will itself.

General Rules About Will Accessibility Post-Probate

Once a will has been submitted to the probate court, it generally becomes a public document. This is because the probate process is a matter of public record.

It allows interested parties to challenge the will if they believe it to be invalid or suspect foul play. This public status means that anyone, not just those directly involved in the will or probate process, can access the document.

Factors Influencing Accessibility of a Will After Probate

Certain factors can influence the accessibility of a will after probate. These can include whether the will was contested or if there are ongoing legal disputes related to the will.

Legal Disputes

One factor that can limit the accessibility of a will post-probate is legal disputes. If the will is under contestation, which means someone is challenging its validity, access to the will may be restricted during the investigation.

The reason for this is to protect the integrity of the legal process and the interests of all parties involved.

Sealed Records

In rare circumstances, the court may choose to seal the records, thereby making the will inaccessible to the public.

This is generally done when the court determines that releasing the will could violate privacy rights or potentially cause harm to individuals named in the will.

Jurisdictional Rules

The rules for accessing a will after probate can also vary depending on the jurisdiction. Different states or countries may have different laws regarding the accessibility of probate records, which include wills.

Type of Will

It can also affect its accessibility post-probate. For instance, the emergence of digital wills, which are created, signed, and stored electronically, introduces a new set of considerations.

Although the process of obtaining a copy of a digital will after probate may be similar to that of a paper will, there may be additional considerations, such as digital security and the integrity of the electronic probate record.

Factors Influencing Accessibility of a Will After Probate

Legal Rights to Access a Will After Probate

While will become public records after they've been submitted to probate, certain individuals have more direct access rights. These generally include the executor, the heirs, and any creditors of the estate.

Individuals Legally Entitled to Access the Will

Legally, individuals entitled to a copy of the will include the named executor, named beneficiaries, and possibly creditors.

The executor is responsible for managing the estate, and as such, they need access to the will to carry out their duties. Beneficiaries have a right to understand the exact provisions made for them, and creditors need to know if there is any provision for debts to be paid.

Legal Procedure for Obtaining a Copy of the Will

Typically, to obtain a copy of the will, you must contact the probate court in the county where the decedent lived.

They can guide you through the process of requesting a copy of the will. This usually involves filling out a form and paying a fee. If you are not a direct party to the will, you may have to explain your interest in the document.

Obtaining a Copy of a Will From the Probate Registry

In some jurisdictions, wills are registered with a Probate Registry or similar entity, making the process of obtaining a copy more straightforward.

A Probate Registry is a public office where wills are registered once they have been validated through the probate process.

This registry functions as a repository of wills and allows for easy access to these important documents.

While the will is a public record, the process of obtaining a copy isn't always free. Most probate registries or courts charge a fee to search for and provide a copy of the will.

The fee can vary depending on the location and the length of the document. It's always a good idea to inquire about potential fees before starting the process.

Step-By-Step Guide on How to Request a Copy of a Will

Step 1: Identify the Probate Registry

Determine the specific Probate Registry that handles the estate in question. This is typically based on the jurisdiction where the deceased person resided at the time of their death.

Step 2: Request a Search

Contact the Probate Registry and request a search for the decedent's will. Provide relevant information such as the full name and date of death of the individual.

Step 3: Pay the Search Fee

Some Probate Registries may require a fee for conducting the search. Inquire about the applicable fee and submit payment as instructed.

Step 4: Will Retrieval

If the will is located during the search, you can proceed with requesting a copy. Typically, this involves submitting a formal request and paying an additional fee for obtaining the copy.

Step 5: Obtain the Copy

Once the request is processed and the necessary fees are paid, the Probate Registry will provide you with a copy of the will. This may be in physical or digital format, depending on the registry's procedures.

Step-By-Step Guide on How to Request a Copy of a Will

Situations Where Access to the Will May Be Restricted

Even though probate is generally a matter of public record, there are circumstances in which access to a will may be limited or restricted.

Sealed Records and Privacy Issues

On rare occasions, the court may decide to seal a will, making it inaccessible to the public. This generally happens when the court determines that making the will public could lead to privacy violations or cause harm to individuals named in the document.

Cases Where Wills Are Contested

If a will is being contested—meaning someone is challenging its validity—the court may restrict access to the will during the investigation. This is to maintain the integrity of the legal process and protect the interests of all parties involved.

Legal Disputes

Beyond contesting the will itself, other legal disputes can affect accessibility. For example, if there's a legal dispute between the heirs, the court may decide to restrict access until the dispute is resolved.

Digital Wills and Their Accessibility Post-Probate

As technology advances, so does the world of estate planning. Digital wills are a new and evolving aspect of this field that introduces some unique considerations.

Overview of Digital Wills

A digital will is a will that is created, signed, and stored electronically. While they are not yet universally accepted due to concerns over their vulnerability to fraud, they are legal in some jurisdictions.

Specific Considerations for Obtaining a Digital Will After Probate

The process of obtaining a copy of a digital will after probate can be similar to that of a paper will. However, there may be additional considerations such as digital security and the electronic probate record's integrity.

Some digital will platforms provide easy online access to the will upon death and the completion of the probate process.


Getting a copy of a will after probate is generally feasible, given that wills typically become public documents post-probate.

The process involves reaching out to the probate court or Probate Registry, submitting a request, and usually paying a nominal fee.

However, access could be influenced by factors like legal disputes, contested wills, or instances where the will is sealed due to privacy concerns.

Additionally, digital wills, an emerging facet of estate planning, might involve different considerations for access and security.

It's essential to understand these nuances if you're an executor, beneficiary, or creditor with a legitimate interest in the document or even a researcher or member of the public.

Remember, the exact process can vary depending on the jurisdiction and specific circumstances, so legal counsel may be necessary.

Can I Get a Copy of a Will After Probate? FAQs

About the Author

True Tamplin, BSc, CEPF®

True Tamplin is a published author, public speaker, CEO of UpDigital, and founder of Finance Strategists.

True is a Certified Educator in Personal Finance (CEPF®), author of The Handy Financial Ratios Guide, a member of the Society for Advancing Business Editing and Writing, contributes to his financial education site, Finance Strategists, and has spoken to various financial communities such as the CFA Institute, as well as university students like his Alma mater, Biola University, where he received a bachelor of science in business and data analytics.

To learn more about True, visit his personal website or view his author profiles on Amazon, Nasdaq and Forbes.

Search Estate Planning Law Firms in Your Area