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When the deceased's will is missing, destroyed or unsigned

You may have asked a relative about their estate plans and heard something like, "Oh, I had a will drawn up years ago. It's all handled." At that point, you probably breathed a sigh of relief and forgot all about it.

Unfortunately, when the time comes and the will is needed, you may not be able to locate the original no matter where you look. What happens next?

This situation is more common than most people realize. Sometimes, the entire will goes missing along with any copies. Other times, just a copy can be found -- but the original seems to be missing. Sometimes people even find a will that is only missing the deceased's signature. This usually means that the deceased simply overlooked that step and never realized it wasn't complete.

Generally speaking, if the original copy of the will can't be found, the court presumes that the deceased intentionally destroyed it. Naturally, this can cause some serious distress to the deceased's heirs. However, there are ways to overcome the issue of a missing or destroyed document under Nebraska's laws.

Usually, you can file a petition with the probate court indicating the will's contents and stating that the original was either lost or destroyed. All interested parties must also be notified. As long as all of the potential heirs agree on the deceased's actual intentions, the process should still go forward with a reasonable amount of speed.

If all of the potential heirs cannot agree on the legitimacy of what is available, however, the probate judge will have to hold a hearing and attempt to determine whether the deceased intentionally destroyed or revoked the will.

If you're dealing with a missing, destroyed or unsigned will, a Nebraska probate and estate attorney can help you assess the situation and guide you through the next steps that need to be taken to resolve the problem.

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