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The Power of Paper

Make Sure Your Family Can Find Your Original Will

As technology has evolved, it’s given us the opportunity to perform more and more tasks electronically. But one crucially important task still requires an original, signed document: the processing of a last will and testament.

Copies Don’t Cut it: The Risks of a Lost Original

For a lot of documents, an electronic copy is fine. For others, a photocopy is perfectly sufficient. When it comes to your will, though, nothing short of the original will do.

In most states, the family or executor is required to file the deceased’s original, signed will with the county clerk, and presented to the probate court if it’s necessary for the probate to be involved. If the original doesn’t turn up, the courts in most states will presume there’s a reason for that, and the odds of the executor getting the benefit of the doubt are slim.

Generally, the court will presume that the deceased destroyed the original, and planned to revoke it – not something you want your loved ones to have to deal with after you’re gone! That means the administration of your estate will move forward under the legal assumption that you had no will.

Granted, this may not be an insurmountable obstacle. It may, for instance, be possible to convince the court to admit a photocopy of the signed will if all interested parties are able to agree it reflects your wishes. Why present any obstacle at all, though? Your best strategy is to avoid the problem entirely by working to ensure your family or executor can find your original, signed will, and that fairly quickly.

Keeping it Safe: Options for Securing Your Original Will

Fortunately, you have a variety of options for storing your will, ensuring it is easily found by your loved ones. Your best option for storing it depends on a number of factors, including cost and comfort level. Methods include:

  • Leaving it in the care of a trusted advisor such as an attorney or accountant, and providing that advisor’s contact information to your loved ones
  • Keeping it at home in a fireproof safe or lockbox, and giving someone you trust the information necessary to find and retrieve it
  • Storing it in a safe deposit box, but only if your state makes it easy to open a safe deposit box containing a will, as some require court orders to open one belonging to a deceased person
  • Storing it with your local county clerk, if the office in your county allows it, and being sure to tell your family or executor where it is

Are You Confident You’ve Done Everything You Need to?

Need to know more about the process of preparing your will, or get some help making sure you have everything in order? Contact Holbrook & Manter today to make sure your estate plan goes off without a hitch!