A will is a very important document, considering that it takes complete control of the probate process and how a deceased’s assets will be divided in favor of the beneficiaries. It is critical that you protect this vital document.
Wills can be filed with the court system. The process includes mailing a copy of the will to the local county for safe keeping. When the individual creating the will passes away, the county brings the will to the probate court for execution.
While this sounds like a very sound process — and a convenient one at that, it’s fallen out of favor for several reasons. Today, it’s no longer advisable to file a will with the court. Instead, one should take other measures to secure and keep a will.
Why You Should Not File Your Will With the Court
1. Restrictive Privacy Laws
Privacy laws today have become more restrictive. This makes it more difficult to get a hold of documents that are filed with the court or county. When a person passes away and their will is held in the county, the beneficiaries may have a difficult time accessing the document and will have to open probate without the will just to get authorization.
2. Issues When Moving Out of State
Local county offices differ from State to State. Filing a will in a specific county may pose problems when the person moves out of State. Relatives may have to travel to another locality just to get a hold of the will or worse, they might not even know that the will is stored in another State’s county office.
3. Instances of Revocation
A will is meant to be updated every once in a while. When an old will is filed in a county office and not replaced with an updated copy or the revocation or amendment, there can arise confusion as to which document to follow during probate. The old will will be the court’s basis, so if there is a revocation or amendment lying around somewhere, it may not come into effect.
Where You Should Store Your Will Instead
For these crucial reasons, people no longer file their wills with the court or county office, nor is it advised by estate planning lawyers. Instead, people should store their wills in secure yet easy-to-access places, in order to eliminate problems when it’s time for execution.
In a drawer, along with other important documents and papers
The best place to store a will is in a drawer at home that can be accessed by family members. Ideally, it should be where a person keeps all their important papers and documents so that the family, by default, knows exactly where to look.
A fire safe is also a good place to keep a will because it’s secure, but at the same time, easy to access. A locked fire safe, in case the family doesn’t have the key, can be opened with the help of professional services. Hence, a will kept in a fire safe can easily be retrieved.
Safe deposit box
A lot of people opt to store their will in a safe deposit box, considering that it’s a highly secure place that no one can access except them. However, that’s where the problem is. Family members may have trouble accessing the safe deposit box because they don’t have the authority to do so. In order to access it, they would have to open probate.
However, this can be avoided by listing a backup signer in the safe deposit box. This person will have authority to access the safe and retrieve the will.
An individual who engaged an estate planning attorney to create their will has the advantage of having the firm secure a copy. The law firm can scan the will and encrypt a copy for their permanent file. Anyone with the proper authorization can access the will and ask for a copy. If the owner gives their consent, the firm can also share the will with financial professionals.
These places are the most ideal avenues for will safe-keeping. They’re better options compared to filing the will with the court. Ultimately, what’s most important is that the will can be found and accessed by the executor and beneficiaries to prevent issues in execution.