Probate records contain information about a person’s assets, liabilities and other property which is transferred to their heirs or beneficiaries after death. These records are publicly available and can be accessed by anyone who is interested in viewing them. There are a number of different types of information found in probate records.

Last will and testament

One of the most important pieces of information which can be found in probate records is the decedent’s last will and testament. This document will detail how the decedent’s assets should be distributed to their heirs or beneficiaries and it is usually filed with the probate court. The will can provide important information about the decedent’s assets, liabilities, and other property. It may also provide insight into the decedent’s wishes and priorities.

Inventory of the estate

Another important piece of information which may be found in probate records is the inventory of the decedent’s estate. This inventory will detail the assets and liabilities of the estate, including any real estate, personal property, stocks and bonds and other assets. This information can be used by the executor of the estate or the probate court to ensure the assets of the estate are properly distributed to the heirs and beneficiaries.

Financial records

Probate records can also include important financial documents, such as tax returns. These documents can provide important information about the decedent’s financial status and can help to establish the value of the estate. They can also help to identify any debts or liabilities that need to be paid off before the assets of the estate can be distributed.

Estate administration details

Another important piece of information which can be found in probate records is the names of the executor or personal representative of the estate. This individual is responsible for managing the distribution of the estate’s assets. Probate records will include this person’s contact information which can be useful for heirs or beneficiaries who may need to contact the executor for more details about the distribution of the estate.

Legal documents

Probate records can also include court orders and other legal documents which may be relevant to the estate. For example, the probate court may issue an order allowing the sale of a property or approve the transfer of assets from the estate to heirs or beneficiaries. These documents can provide essential information about the legal process of administering the estate left by the decedent. 

Finally, it is worth noting that probate records are typically kept by the probate court in the jurisdiction where the decedent lived. In many cases, these records can be accessed online or by visiting the court in person. However, it is important to keep in mind there may be fees involved for accessing these records and some records may be restricted.

How can you protect your privacy?

Although it is clear probate records are easily accessible to the public, there are ways which can allow you to avoid having much of your information in the probate record. When developing your estate planning strategy, you can make certain decisions which may help to bypass the probate process, such as using a trust instead of a will. 

While we are familiar with the provisions of the issues presented herein, as Financial Advisors we are not qualified to render advice on tax or legal matters. Raymond James does not provide tax or legal advice. Please consult your own legal or tax professional for more detailed information on legal or tax issues and advice as they relate to your specific situation.