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Locating a will, legal file or document

If you are looking for a will, legal file or document that was prepared by a lawyer or paralegal in Ontario, there are a number of places you might search. Read on to learn more about how to find a will, power of attorney, legal file, court document or real estate document in Ontario and how Trustee Services at the Law Society may be able to help.

Tips and resources for locating wills, legal files and other legal documents

  1. Contact the lawyer or paralegal directly and inquire if they have retained a copy of your will, document or client file.
    • Search the Law Society's Lawyer and Paralegal Directory for contact information.
    • If the lawyer or paralegal worked in a law firm and is no longer practising, try contacting the law firm to inquire if they have retained closed files and wills.
    • If your lawyer or paralegal practised outside of Toronto, contact the local law association in the area where your lawyer or paralegal practised. Law associations often keep notes regarding the location of wills and merger of local law practices. A list of Ontario law associations can be found on the Federation of Ontario Law Association website. (*Please note that, due to the size of its membership, the Toronto Lawyers Association cannot assist with these types of inquiries.)
  2. If you are looking for real estate documents (for example, a mortgage or deed), contact your local land registry office. The land registry office maintains official records of land and property in Ontario, including title, deed and mortgage documents.
    • For information on how to search for records and which land registry office to contact, visit the Service Ontario overview of land registry.
    • If you have an issue with title to your property and hold a policy of title insurance, you may wish to contact your title insurer to inquire if they can assist you.
  3. If you are looking for wills or power of attorney documents:
    • The first place you should look is close to home. Often wills have been found in safety deposit boxes or tucked away safely in a desk or drawer at home.
    • Contact the estates department in the civil office of the Superior Court of Justice in the location where the testator lived to see if the document was deposited with the court. Addresses and court information for court houses in Ontario can be accessed on the Ministry of the Attorney General's website.
    • If you are an Ontario lawyer, or if you have retained a lawyer in Ontario, he or she may conduct a search on Willcheck.ca, an Ontario wills registry database maintained by the County of Carleton Law Association.
    • You may wish to submit a search request with NoticeConnect, which has created the Canada Wills Registry. Their system takes your search query and compares it against the wills that have been registered in their database. NoticeConnect can also assist in locating wills that have not been registered in their database. This service sends a Knowledge of a Will notice to NoticeConnect's mailing list, law libraries and other partners, asking the legal community if anyone has or knows about a particular will.
    • You may wish to contact a lawyer who offers services in estate law. Estate lawyers may be able to assist in the search for an original will, or otherwise advise you about a missing or lost will and how to proceed without an original will.
  4. If you are looking for court documents, contact the courthouse. Many documents are filed in the context of litigation or are available at the courthouse in the context of criminal, provincial offences and immigration matters.
    • You can find contact information for the appropriate court office on the first or last page of all court-issued documents.
    • Otherwise, you can search for court office locations and contact information on the Ministry of the Attorney General's website.
  5. If you are looking for corporate minute books or corporate records:
    • For federally incorporated corporations, contact Corporations Canada, who can provide copies of registered documents for a fee.
    • For provincially incorporated corporations, you may request records through Service Ontario.

How can the Law Society help?

In some cases, the Law Society may have information about the location of wills, legal files and documents from the former practices of lawyers or paralegals. When lawyers and paralegals stop practising, they are responsible for providing the Trustee Services department of the Law Society with information regarding the location of their client files. Where they have done so, Trustee Services may be able to direct you to the successor paralegal or lawyer. It is important to note that not all lawyers and paralegals provide the Law Society with this information and/or in some cases the information is incomplete or out of date.  

If you have accessed the resources above and are still unable to locate a will, file or document, please complete the online inquiry form linked below.  The information requested by the form will help Trustee Services determine if the Law Society has information about the location of these documents. 

Before completing the online inquiry form, please review the following frequently asked questions about storing legal documents.

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