Where Should I Keep My Original Will?

Long Island Elder Law and Estate Planning Lawyers

If your original Last Will and Testament cannot be located after your death, it is presumed to have been revoked.
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It’s essential to know where to keep and how to safeguard your Last Will and Testament after it has been executed. In today’s world, many legal documents are signed and maintained in electronic format. For many documents, a copy will often suffice for it to be considered enforceable. Your Last Will and Testament is different. Upon your death, the original typically must be submitted to the court as part of the probate process. Therefore, it is essential to secure your original Will.

It is an important to know that if an original Last Will and Testament cannot be located, there is a presumption that is has been revoked. This presumption is very difficult to overcome and trying to overcome it can incur significant legal fees. If you took possession of your original Will after it was executed, you should keep it at home in a secure place, such as a fireproof safe, box, or cabinet. Notify the executor and alternate executor named in your Will of its location, so it can be retrieved after your death. If locked in a safe, box, or cabinet, your executor should either know the combination or have a key. You may also wish to provide your executor with a copy of your Will (do not remove any staples when making copies).

If the attorney who prepared your Will maintains the original, provide your executor and alternate executor with the attorney’s name and contact information so they can contact the attorney after your passing. There is no central statewide registry of Wills, so if your executor does not know which attorney has it and cannot locate a copy among your possessions, it may be very difficult, if not impossible, to locate the original after death.

An original Will can also be filed with the court for a relatively minimal fee. Although very few people file their Wills with the court, that may the best option under certain circumstances, such as you do not wish to keep the Will at your home and your attorney is near retirement and has not communicated a clear plan of succession for the handling of original Wills.

One place you should not keep your original Will is in a safe deposit box. For one, accessing someone else’s safe deposit box requires knowing where it is located, having a key, and being designated in the bank’s records as someone with access. However, even if your executor meets all of those requirements, after your death, a bank is not supposed to allow access without a court order (assuming the bank is aware of your death). This necessitates an extra court proceeding to obtain an order to open the box, adding time and expenses to the process of administering your estate.

A Last Will and Testament is an essential part of every estate plan. Where you keep, and how you safeguard, it can determine whether your plan for the passing of your assets upon your death will ever be realized. Make sure you have a plan in place for securing the original and notifying your executor and alternate executor of where it can be found after your death.  The attorneys at Kurre Schneps LLP craft, supervise the execution of, and help develop a plan for the proper safeguarding of, Wills. Click here to make an appointment to receive professional assistance with your Last Will and Testament.


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