Q: We recently lost a family member but we haven’t heard anything about an estate yet. We think we know who the attorney is. Is there any kind of a public search we can use to see if an estate is opened? When is the reading of the will determined?
A: I’ll start with the will reading. Will readings just don’t occur that often any more. I know some attorneys still hold them but it’s been my experience that they are pretty rare events. I think that I have been involved in three or four in the 19 years that I have been doing this. I’m not saying the attorney won’t hold a will reading, but don’t be too surprised if he doesn’t.
Although it isn’t likely you’ll receive a phone call about a will reading, that doesn’t mean that you’ll be kept in the dark. If you are in the will, you should receive notice when the estate is opened.
If you don’t want to wait for official notice, try calling the attorney’s office and ask him for an update. Estate administrations are usually non-confrontational, so my guess is the attorney will be happy to speak with you. Maybe "happy" is a stretch, but he should speak with you. Now I’m assuming that you are interested party. If you aren’t an interested party, the attorney may not speak with you or may be guarded as to what he can tell you.
Another option is to check with the clerk of the court in which your family member resided. You should be able to get information regarding the status of the estate or even if it has been opened yet. If you want more information than just a status, you may need to visit the clerk’s office and ask to review the file. The file should contain copies of the will and the pleadings that have been filed. Most of the court’s file should be public so you should be able to get your questions answered.
Another option is to check to see if the court’s docket is online. Not all counties have an online docket so this might not be an option. Lake County’s docket is online and can offer some basic information. The free portion will should at least tell you who the player’s are and the status of the matter.
If all else fails, you can always hire an attorney at let her handle this for you. The attorney will likely do many of the same things but with more expertise and authority. She will also know what questions to ask.
Good luck with your search.