The Great Debate:
Where Should I Store My Will?
The safekeeping of an original Will is very important. If an original Will cannot be found, the law presumes it has been destroyed and is no longer valid. This can cause problems, especially when there is a copy of the original Will, outlining the terms of the Estate, but no valid document to prove those terms must be fulfilled. In majority of the cases, litigation can be avoided if the original Will can be located. Many clients ask, “Where should I store my will?”
When considering who, where, and how you should store a Will, there are three common options a person has:
- The Will-maker (i.e. individual writing the Will) holds onto the original Will;
- The Will-maker gives the original Will to someone else; or
- The Will-maker leaves the original Will with the lawyer.
There are advantages and disadvantages to each option:
- Option 1: The Will-maker (i.e. individual writing the Will) holds onto the original Will.
If the Will-maker keeps the original Will, when the Will-maker dies, their Executor (the person dealing with their Estate) needs to know where to find the original Will. It is very easy to misplace things. Mold and Mildew can destroy documents, and accidents like floods can happen when you least expect it. A Will is one of the most important documents you will be involved in making in your life time. If you do not have a safety deposit box or a similar safe place, then keeping your own Will is probably not a good idea.
To prevent these scenarios from happening, it is recommended the Will-maker:
- Keeps the Will in a locked safety deposit box; and
- Tell the Executor and a small number of family members where the Will and key will be kept.
- Option 2: The Will-maker gives the original Will to someone else.
In some cases, the Executor of the Will-maker’s Estate may be asked to hold onto the Will. However, there is nothing keeping the Executor from looking at the Will, even if the Will-maker may not want the Executor to know the contents of the Will prior to death. Also, a Will-maker may want to change Executors. This can lead to awkward situations. Also, looking after an original document places a big burden on the Executor to safe guard it. Unless an Executor has a specific place to store the Will and is likely to remain the Executor, having the Executor keep the Will may not be the best idea.
- Option 3: The Will-maker leaves the original Will with the drafting lawyer.
A lawyer may or may not offer to keep the original Will. In fact, many lawyers refuse to keep an original Will. The benefits of having the Will kept with a lawyer, is it is required to be held in a fire proof filing cabinet preventing unexpected destruction. The Executor knows the location of the original Will, and the Lawyer has the option to file a public Wills notice with the Vital Statistics Agency (see below for more information). The Will can be more easily reviewed and/or amended often just by calling the lawyer’s office and having a brief appointment to discuss the proposed changes. If a lawyer refuses to keep an original Will, this should be documented by the lawyer. The Will-maker should also inform the lawyer of whether they will hold the original Will or if they are having someone else hold the original Will.
While all these options are commonly used, it important to choose the right option for your unique family situation. If you are unsure, it is suggested to contact a lawyer to help you choose the right route for you.
Who is the Vital Statistics Agency?
The Vital Statistics is an agency that registers Wills. It is a place available to all British Columbians to register their Will (a.k.a. posting a Wills notice). This notice describes that an individual has made a Will, date of the Will, the contents of the Will, and where the Will is located. If a Will has been posted to Vital Statistics it is important to know because if there are any changes to the Will, the “changed” or “new” Will, will need to be posted. Without re-posting the changed or new Will can cause issues in the future on determine which Will is the final Will.
Note to Reader
**This blog post is made available by the lawyer or law firm publisher for educational purposes only to provide general information and understanding of the law, not to provide specific legal advice. By using this blog, you understand that there is no client lawyer relationship between you and the blog publisher. The blog should not be used as a substitute for competent legal advice from a licensed lawyer.