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Do Probate Records Become Public?

Record folders

Is it possible to access probate records? Probate records include what information? How can I access probate records? All of these questions are commonly asked about probate. Our Dallas-Fort Worth probate team provides answers to these questions and more! Continue reading.

How Does Someone Access Probate Documents?

The first thing to note is that probate records are indeed public. Upon filing with the court, these documents become public records. Accessibility may vary depending on the probate court and jurisdiction.

What Information is Included in the Probate Records?

Any document the court creates or submits to the court is considered a probate record. These generally include:

  • The petition for probate

  • The will

  • Estate inventories

  • Letters testamentary or letters of administration

  • A final accounting

How Can I Keep Probate Records Private?

The probate documents of an estate must become public once someone dies, and there is almost nothing that can prevent this. Probate judges may seal probate records if they find a compelling reason to do so (such as when an Oklahoma judge thought a probate record might unfairly prejudice a jury against a defendant accused of murdering his father). Rarely does it happen, and it can't be relied upon.

The best way to maintain privacy is to utilize a living trust, which allows for asset transfers and distribution without the need for probate proceedings. It is highly recommended to seek the guidance of an experienced estate planning attorney.

How Can I Access Probate Records?

In order to access probate records, you may need to visit the probate court in the jurisdiction where the individual passed away. It is also possible to access some probate records online through the probate court's website or a third-party portal. Additionally, it may be necessary to pay a small fee for copies of the documents.

Crain & Wooley Can Assist You Through the Probate Process

In summary, while it may be possible to seal certain probate records in rare cases, generally speaking, they are public documents. The best way to keep them private is to plan ahead with an estate planning attorney. If you have questions about probate or need assistance setting up an estate plan, our Dallas-Fort Worth probate team is here to help. Contact us today for a consultation.

Contact us through our website or give us a call at (972) 945-1610.