The Conaway name has been synonymous with the Baltimore register of wills office for three decades: Mary W. Conaway held the elective position from 1982 until retiring in 2012, and her stepdaugther, Belinda K. Conaway, took over in December after winning last year's election.

But when Baltimore Clerk of Courts Frank M. Conaway Sr. died on Feb. 15, neither woman could find an important document: his will.


They did, however, find a copy of the will dated Nov. 8, 1999, according to records filed with the register of wills office. The document bequeaths Frank Sr.'s entire estate to his daughter, Belinda, and his son, Del. Frank M. Conaway Jr.

(Actually, according to the will, Frank Jr. received slightly more: his father's "jewelry.")

On March 3, Belinda Conaway filed a petition to allow for the admission of a copy of the will.

"This copy was found among the personal papers and I have not been able to locate the original," she wrote in the petition.

A week later, Judge Charles G. Bernstein formally allowed the copy to be accepted.

Responding to a request for comment on the matter, Belinda Conaway wrote in an email: "My father will truly be missed. Our family has no comment about my father's will. It's been less than a month since his death. We ask that you respect our privacy during this difficult time."

It is not unusual for a family to have trouble locating the original will, said Lauren M. Parker, Anne Arundel County's register of wills. She's seen it quite often during her eight years in office.

"It'll show up way down the road when they unlock some box somewhere," Parker said. "As long as the heirs are in agreement that this is a copy of the last will and they all consent … It saves a lot of headaches."