Taking the time to decide what you want to happen after you die and writing those decisions down in your last will and testament is something that everyone making an estate plan has to do. The time and effort you put into creating your will means that the document you create is something that you need to store securely. Unfortunately, these documents, like all other documents, can get lost or misplaced. Whether you lose your will, inadvertently destroy it, or are unable to find the last will and testament of a family member who has recently died, you need to be prepared to deal with the situation appropriately. Here are some common questions you might ask if you are dealing with a lost will.
Where should I keep my will?
You can keep your last will and testament anywhere you like as long as that place is secure. You should not, for example, keep your will somewhere where it might be damaged by water or other environmental dangers.
Many people choose to keep their important documents in their home offices, home safes, or bank safe deposit box. You might also consider keeping the original or a copy with your estate planning attorney in his or her office.
Regardless of where you keep the actual document, you also need to ensure that someone knows where you keep it and how to access it. You should probably notify the person you chose to serve as your executor about where you keep your will, but it might also be a good idea to tell your attorney about its location, or ensure that your attorney has a copy.
What if I lose my will?
The first thing you need to do if you believe you have lost your will is to search everything. This sounds like simple advice, but in many circumstances a person simply misplaces the document and forgets to look for it thoroughly. Check your desk, your safe, your library, your files, and anywhere else you keep important documents. Once you check all those places, look in unexpected places, such as the trash, underneath furniture, or anywhere else.
If, after all your searching, you are still unable to locate the will, you will have to make a new one. You can make a new will whenever you like. As long as the new will states explicitly that the old will is revoked, your estate will not have any difficulties with the document even if the old will later turns up.
What if a relative loses the will?
You need to look carefully for the will after a relative dies. You should contact the relative’s attorney, see if the relative had a bank safe deposit box, and thoroughly search through the deceased relative’s home. If you cannot find the document you’ll have to contact a local estate planning attorney and ask what your next steps are. You can begin the probate process without a will, but you will have to go through specific steps in order to do so.
You can learn a lot more about wills and other estate planning tools that one of our upcoming free seminars. Take a look at what we have to offer, and then contact our office for registration details.