As with the rest of your Estate Planning documents, your Last Will and Testament will be of little use if it is not found when needed. However, unlike the rest of your Estate Planning documents, the original copy of your Last Will and Testament must be filed with the probate court in order for it to be effective. The court will not accept digital or photo copies of your Will, so it is very important to store this document properly.
It is important to store your Will, along with other important Estate Planning documents, in a safe and accessible location, and to make sure that the right people knows where it is, so it can easily be found when needed.
Your Personal Representative is the person you designated to be responsible for probating your Estate. It will be his or her responsibility to file the original Will with the probate court. The most important consideration in deciding where to store a Will is that your Personal Representative can quickly obtain it after your passing.
Most people choose to store their Last Will and Testament in their own home. This is often the best option, however, keeping your Will in your house creates the risk of others accessing it, and the possibility of it being destroyed by fire or other natural disaster. To protect your home-stored Will from damage or loss you should consider keeping it in a heavy fireproof safe securely tied into the structure of the home. Your Personal Representative, a trusted friend, or family member would need to (a) know where you keep your Will, (b) have access to your house, and (c) have key or combination access to the safe.
Another option is to let your Personal Representative keep your Will in his or her own home. In this case, your Personal Representative will naturally have access to the document and may be able to read it, so the information in your Will could get disclosed to your beneficiaries – although, depending on your particular situation this may not be a concern. You can place your Will in a sealed envelope, and ask that it only be opened upon your death. Your Personal Representative should store it in a safe deposit box or personal safe at home.
Using a safety deposit box to store your Last Will and Testament is not recommended. Often, authorized users, such as spouses or other family members, will be denied access to your safety deposit box upon your passing. Once a bank is aware of your death, they commonly secure your safety deposit box and require a court order to open it. Check with your bank before considering storing any Estate Planning documents with them.