Estate Law Questions? Ask an Estate Lawyer.
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Who has the original will?
What do you mean by protecting his assets? From who?
Whoever is executor of the will would need to take the original will down to the local probate court and file a petition to admit the will for probate and be formally named as executor. Then they have to notify all the family that they have filed the petition and give anyone a chance to object if they wanted to. The clerk then sets a hearing date where the executor appears and , assuming that no one object, appoints them as executor formally.
Then they have the power to gather all assets, pay any debts and taxes, and then distribute the surplus to the beneficiaries as directed in the will.
If the wife won't give up the original, then the exec can still file the petition with the copy and then the judge can issue an order for the wife to produce the original for admission to court under threat of contempt of court.