You’ve taken the first step in estate planning – creating a will, so now what do you do with it? First and foremost, make sure the will is properly signed, witnessed and executed. Working with an estate planning attorney ensures that this step occurs, but what do you do with the will once it’s executed?
When someone dies, the original Will needs to be filed with the Probate Court, or in the case of New York residents, Surrogate’s Court, so it is important that the document be kept safe but accessible. While your estate planning lawyer can best advise you how to safeguard your estate planning documents for your particular situation, following are some popular options:
- Place the Will in a safe deposit box and be sure to let a family member know where the key and your box are located. You may also allow a trusted family member to be an authorized person on the safe deposit box.
- File the original Will with the Register of Wills in your County. Some Counties will no longer provide this service, and there is the chance that you will move in the future and no one will think to check with a Register of Wills in a previous hometown.
- Ask your estate planning lawyer if they provide the service of retaining the original document in a fireproof safe, and make sure family members know the name and location of the law firm.
- Keep the Will located in a safe place in your home such as a wall or fire proof safe and tell someone you trust where it is located and how to access it.
The bottom line is that someone needs to be able to find your original Will, locate your assets, and have access to your accounts, passwords, PIN numbers, emails and log-in names. So, if you keep your original Will at home, do not keep the original in a secret spot that no one would ever find.
Working with a qualified estate planning attorney not only ensures that your will is legal, valid and meets with your family’s needs and goals, but also allows that you receive the best advice on how to make sure these documents are protected and usable when needed.