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Public Records Requests and Locating Wills


How did we answer that? Public Records and Finding a Will

We received a public records request through the County’s online public records portal. The question was whether the County had a relative’s will. There are two questions here: what is a public records request for, and how can I find a relative’s will.

A public records request is any attempt to get access to a record of a government or public entity. In Oregon, state law provides a broad right of access to records generated by or for public entities. The Attorney General has a Public Records and Meetings Law Manual. That explains Oregon’s laws in greater detail. Many public entities have a portal where you can submit a public records request. If not, you should be able to contact the entity. Some records may already be easily available. For example, city or county codes or ordinances, or public meeting minutes, may already be on the organization’s website.

In Oregon a will does not need to be recorded or filed with a government entity before the person’s death. So, there may not be a public record that can help locate a missing will. If a will has been filed with the court after a person’s death, then it may be available through that court’s probate or records department.

If the lawyer who drafted the will kept a copy, it may be possible to locate their files. First, check the Oregon State Bar directory to find the lawyer’s current contact information. If they are no longer practicing, try the Oregon State Bar’s Locating Attorney Files page.

Before submitting a public record request, it’s a good idea to figure out if you’re really looking for a public record. If you do need a public record, make sure you find out the process for the organization. Review what is on their website before asking, and then follow their process for a smoother result. If what you’re looking for isn’t a public record, check with your local librarian or law librarian for other options.

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