Is It Illegal to Copy Last Will & Testament Papers?

By Teo Spengler

As long as you have the right to use the copy machine, no penalties attach to copying your last will and testament. In fact, it may be prudent for someone making a will to provide a copy of the document to her spouse, attorney and the person she names as executor. In most cases, however, the original will, not a copy, must be filed with the court for probate.

The Purpose of a Will

A will is a legal document in which you describe how you want your property distributed at your death. You can also use the will to name a trusted person to manage your estate through the probate process and identify your choice for the guardians of your minor children.

State Requirements

The making of wills is regulated by state law, so requirements vary depending upon where you live. Some states, like California, allow unwitnessed handwritten wills, but most wills must be signed by at least two adult witnesses and/or a notary public to be valid. Will forms are available from court websites and online legal service providers.

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Copying Wills

It is legal to make a copy of your own last will and testament, and generally equally legal to make a copy of any last will and testament that has been provided to you without copying restrictions. While it may be wise to provide a copy of the document to key individuals, such as your attorney, think hard before handing out copies to your heirs since you can change the terms of your will at any time.

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Can an Executor Read a Will Before a Person Dies?

In books and in movies, the contents of wills often come as a shock to the family. But in real life, wills are often heavily discussed prior to the will maker's -- also known as the "testator"-- death. Executors are neither legally entitled to read the will nor legally prohibited from doing so, and whether or not an executor reads a will is likely to depend on the executor's relationship with the testator.

Copyright Law: Making Personal Copies

Copyright law does not contain any caveat that allows unauthorized parties to make personal copies of copyrighted products. However, under the doctrine of "fair use," individuals may be permitted to make backup copies or archival copies of some materials as long as certain conditions are met. Creating a copy of a copyrighted work for your own ease of use is likely to be considered copyright infringement. But if you are making a copy so that you may use a copyrighted product in case the original is stolen, damaged or destroyed, your conduct may fall within the doctrine of fair use.

How to Probate a Will in BC, Canada

In Canada, all wills are subject to probate, a court process that validates the will and gives the legal authority for distribution of the assets belonging to the estate. An executor named in the will is responsible for bringing the will to probate and handling the estate according to the will's instructions. Not all documents require probate but if you have been named executor, follow the legal procedures to avoid the loss of time and money in carrying out this task.

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