What Do You Do With a Last Will & Testament After It Is Drawn Up?

By Jeffry Olson, J.D.

What Do You Do With a Last Will & Testament After It Is Drawn Up?

By Jeffry Olson, J.D.

After you have drafted your last will and testament, you have to decide what to do with it, because the court requires the physical document. This means your executor—the person you appoint to manage your affairs and distribute your assets upon your death—must be able to find it quickly and easily. After you die, nobody will want to search through your personal belongings, looking for a document they think you had written. Regardless of the location you choose, your executor and other trusted family or friends must know where your last will and testament is.

Person unlocking a safe deposit box

In a Safe Deposit Box or at Home

People use a safe deposit box to store important papers, among other things. This makes your safe deposit box an obvious place to store your last will and testament. However, doing so creates a problem for your executor. Even if she is aware the document is in your deposit box, your executor needs a court order to access your safe deposit box. After all, the document names your executor and you have it locked away in the safe deposit box, making it inaccessible. This makes what seems like a logical place a much less desirable idea.

Many choose to store this important document in a safe place in their home. Consider the level of secrecy you really need for your last will and testament. If you place it in a fireproof box, family members with a key or combination have access to your documents. Decide if this matters to you.

With Your Executor, Another Close Friend, or in Professional Storage

Your executor must file your last will and testament with the probate court, so placing it with her is a logical choice. Your executor will know the contents of your will upon your death, but you must consider whether you want her knowing its contents prior to your death. Naturally, your chosen executor is a person you trust—or she would not be your executor in the first place.

Placing your last will and testament with a close friend is another option. The main potential problems are that friends may not remain friends and that they may move away. Privacy may also be an issue when leaving important documents with friends.

Many states offer professional services that store your document for a fee. This may include attorneys, even when that attorney did not draft your last will and testament. Attorneys who practice estate planning store documents for clients regularly, and many are willing to do the same for others.

Storing Your Last Will and Testament

Choosing the location to store your last will and testament is a personal decision. Obviously, it is important to store it safely and securely. However, do not store it secretly. Tell your executor and perhaps close family and friends where you have chosen to store it. Using a safe deposit box creates problems and hiding your will may result in it never being found. Where you choose to store your last will and testament is not as important as informing the appropriate people of its location.

Before you can even decide where to store your will, you'll have to draft it first. This is an important step in estate planning to ensure your wishes for the distribution of your assets are noted. Once you complete the process of drawing up this important legal document, you can ensure your last wishes are properly protected by carefully considering your options for storage.

This portion of the site is for informational purposes only. The content is not legal advice. The statements and opinions are the expression of author, not LegalZoom, and have not been evaluated by LegalZoom for accuracy, completeness, or changes in the law.