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In most states death records were not mandatory until the 20th century, but what if you have an ancestor who died before then. An accurate source is obituaries, if it was published in a newspaper somewhere. That could take months to find, examining old newspapers on microfilm. A faster method is to search for the will or estate records. Even if a person dies intestate ( without a will ), an administrator is appointed to handle the paperwork and distribution to the heirs, a return which must be filed in the probate court of the county where he died. The application for letters of administration or testamentary is written the day following the funeral. The reason? Debts have to be settled, property appraised,etc. Same thing for filing the last will and testament. After the clerk copies these documents, he provides the recording date of the instrument. So, you can figure the death occurred a day or two earlier. When reading the original will, don't forget to read the probate information, that is, who presented it for probate and the date.
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