Summary: Now that you have completed your will, where should you store it? Siedentopf Law has some suggestions on how and where to keep your documents safe.
You have gone through the estate planning process and have drafted your Last Will and Testament. Congratulations on completing this important process! The next major step, however, is to figure out the best place to keep your will. You want to make sure that the documents are safe, and that your family and “executor” (the person you have designated to probate your will) can easily access them. By properly storing your will today, you can prevent your beneficiaries from experiencing emotional and financial burdens in the future.
Home or Office: Keeping your will in your home or office is a convenient option, but does pose some risks. The documents could be damaged by water, fire, or another natural disaster. Additionally, if the documents are in your house, that means other friends or family members could access them against your wishes. If you want to keep your will in your home or office, it is a good idea to store the documents in a waterproof and fireproof safe. Secure the safe to the building structure itself, so that it cannot be easily removed from your home or office. Also, do not forget to tell your family and the executor about the safe, as well as where they can find the combination or keys.
Bank Safe Deposit Box: Another option is to put your estate planning documents in a bank deposit box. This is a very safe way to store your will; you do not have to worry about natural disasters, prying eyes, or thieves. However, you might want to consider a few additional steps, such as 1) letting your beneficiaries and/or executor know the location of the bank box, and 2) giving them legal authority to take possession of the box after your death. Alternatively, if you do not grant legal authority or joint access to the bank safe deposit box, an attorney can help beneficiaries or the executor access the box with a court order. But this can extend the probate process, and also, with a safe deposit box, your family may not know your final wishes until after they can access the box.
With Your Executor: A third place to store your will is at the home or office of your executor. This option can be a double-edged sword. On one hand, it is convenient, because the person probating your Last Will and Testament will already have a copy of it. On the other hand, this option requires that you place a great amount of trust in your executor. That person needs to keep the documents in a safe place (ex: waterproof and fireproof safe), and respect your wishes about reading your will prior to your death. Also, if you ever decide to draft a new version, the executor would need to return the old will to you so that you can destroy it. (For that reason, you might want to give a copy of your will to the executor, not the original).
With Your Attorney: Having your attorney keep your will is a beneficial option, especially if you plan on continuing to employ that attorney or law firm. Attorneys are professionally obligated to keep the contents of your will confidential. They may charge you a fee for keeping the documents in their office or secure storage facility. Also, if you want your attorney to keep the original version of your will, rather than a copy of it, that may require a few additional steps. As with the other options, it is important to let beneficiaries and the executor know which attorney or law firm has your will, and how to contact them.
County Clerk: A fifth option for storing your will is at the county clerk’s office. Some (not all) of Georgia’s county clerks may keep an original copy of your will, for a small storage fee. This way, the court will already have your documents when it comes time to probate them. However, it is important to note that beneficiaries and the executor may not think to check the clerk’s office for documents, unless you tell them beforehand. Also, if you move away from that particular county, it may prove difficult if you need to access the will yourself, or make changes to it.
No matter where you decide to store your will, you also need to let your executor know where the documents are and how to access them. After all, these are your specific wishes, and you want to make sure that they are carried out appropriately. (You might also want to make yourself a reminder, in case you forget the location yourself). For more advice about this issue, or for help with the estate planning process, visit Siedentopf Law’s website at EstateLawAtlanta.com or call (404) 736-6066.
If you are still thinking about making a will, check out our blog on when to create a will.
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