In Texas, if a person dies with a valid will the will determines how his estate is disposed of to his beneficiaries. Often, the heirs don’t have a copy of the will and so can’t decide if the will is valid or needs to be contested. This may happen because the person who has the will is not on good terms with the heirs. It may also happen when the person who has the will is attempting to defraud the estate of the property and doesn’t want the rightful beneficiaries to know that they have an interest in the estate. The heirs might want to contest the will after they see it but they can’t make that decision without a copy. Since the statute of limitations is involved in challenging wills, the heirs need to know what the will says.
When a will is filed for probate, it is a public document and anyone can get a copy of it. The probate is filed with the county clerk of the county in which the decedent resided when he died. Contact the county clerk and ask for a copy. The clerk will make a copy of the will for anyone who wants it (with a small copying charge, of course.)
If a person has a will and doesn’t want to give a copy of it to the heirs of the decedent, the heirs should immediately become suspicious since it becomes a public document once it is filed and it has to be filed to become effective. There is no reason to hide it except to deny the heirs their rightful inheritance or to keep them from deciding to contest the will. In the event the will is not filed for probate, the Texas Estates Code has a procedure where the attorney for the heirs can demand that a will be filed with the clerk if no probate has been filed. If the will is not filed after the demand, the attorney can file a motion with the court to hold in contempt the person who refuses to file the will. There is a provision for a fine and jail time for refusing to file the will. In addition, the Texas Penal Code makes it a jail felony to conceal, alter or destroy a will.
While it can be difficult to obtain a copy of a will after someone dies, there are remedies available.