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What Happens if a Will is Lost?

A lost will may still be admitted to probate if:

(a) It is established that the will has not been revoked; and

(b) Execution of the will is proved in the manner required for the probate of an existing will; and

(c) All of the provisions of the will are proved by at least two credible witnesses or by a copy or draft of the will proved to be true and complete.

In the normal probate of an original will, where the will itself is produced, the will itself is sufficient. However, in a lost will proceeding, this essential element is missing. Thus, the Court will look to a substantial equivalent in the statements of the petition and evidene presented to the Court of that which would have been apparent to the Court had the original will been available to the Court in the first instance.

Original wills should be kept in a secure, fireproof location and your nominated executor should be informed of the documents’ whereabouts. If key people cannot locate your will, they will not be able to assist you in the manner you wish. See: The Safekeeping of Wills in New York State.

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