Storing Your Will: Everything You Need to Know
By: Barry E. Haimo, Esq.
November 14, 2019
Your last will and testament is an incredibly important document. Without it, your family will have no official record of your last wishes and how you want to distribute your estate. You can jump through hoops to probate a lost or destroyed will in Florida in some cases. However, in those cases where there’s insufficient evidence or the will is an unofficial will, then the deceased is deemed to have passed away without a valid will, and it cannot be used to ensure your wishes are carried out.
Once you have gone through the hoops of making your will official under Florida law, think about where you want to store it. Keep it safe, but also keep it accessible so that your personal representative will be able to use it when it’s time.
Places to Store Your Will
In Your Home
Many people have a special file or area of the home dedicated to their most important documents: birth certificates, passports, and so on. Your will should be treated with the same kind of care.
Of course, homes are not immune to damage – consider fires, floods, and other disasters when you store your will inside your home. Buy a fire-resistant safe to store your will and other important documents.
If your safe has a lock, make sure your personal representative has access through a code or key.
Safety Deposit Box
A safety deposit box is another secure place for storing valuable assets and documents. However, if it’s titled solely in the name of the deceased, then the personal representative will have trouble accessing it (there’s statutory authority to get in but you can expect banks to be difficult). It is likely going to not be accessible to your personal representative, and you might be inadvertently creating a headache for your family after your death.
If you currently have a safety deposit box, learn more about providing access to others or retitling it. Most safety deposit boxes are sealed for weeks or months after a person’s death, making it hard to move the probate process along.
With Your Estate Planning Attorney
You probably already know that an estate planning attorney can help you figure out the best course of action for your estate. And that they can help to ensure that all of your documentation is valid and ready to be executed after your death. Well, some estate planning attorneys take their services a step further by actually offering a space to store their clients’ wills.
There are many benefits to storing your will with your attorney. Not the least of which is that you know your will is in good hands and your personal representative will be able to speak to them before they execute your estate plan.
Of course, if the attorney decides to stop practicing (or passes away) before you die, you might run into some complications. Talk to your attorney about what will happen to your documents if they can no longer store them.
With the Probate Court
Some (but not all) jurisdictions allow people to store their will at their local probate court. Talk to your attorney about whether this option is available and right for you. People who plan to move before their death should consider choosing an option that is more accessible. This NOT customary to do in Florida, nor would we recommend doing so.
Do What Is Right For You
You have many options for storing your will in a safe and accessible way. All of these options have advantages and disadvantages depending on your location, risks, and other factors. Talk to your attorney and personal representative before choosing a plan of action for storing your will and retrieving it after your death.
Barry E. Haimo, Esq.
Strategic Planning With Purpose®
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