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

By Beverly Bird

Where you put your last will and testament for safekeeping until your loved ones need it depends a great deal on your personal circumstances. Some people find that leaving it with an attorney or some other professional works best. Some are comfortable with a family member retaining it. There are other options, as well, but whichever you choose, make sure that the executor you have named in your will knows where to locate it.

Close Personal Friend

If you give your will to an individual to hold on to for you, bear in mind that he can easily read it unless you seal it with wax or by some other method. Relationships also change over time, so be sure that if you choose a friend, he will still be your friend in the future. Your executor can ask him for your will after you pass away, but only if your executor knows where to find him. If he relocates to parts unknown and takes your will with him, the law will treat it as though you died intestate, or without any will at all.

Your Executor

You can save your executor the time and effort of locating your will after your death if you give it to her for safekeeping. Since this is the person who will be responsible for submitting the will for probate and overseeing settlement of your estate, this option is uncomplicated and it affords you a degree of privacy. No one else will know the contents of your will – or even that you have made one – until after you pass away and your executor files it for probate.

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Safe Location at Home

Many people choose to keep their wills with other important papers at home. Options range from your freezer or other appliance where it is not likely to become unreadable in a natural disaster, to a fireproof lockbox or safe. However, depending on who you reside with, it might not remain confidential for long if you keep your will at home. Family members will have access to it if they know where to look and have the combination to your lockbox or safe.

Safe Deposit Box

If you choose to place your will in your safe deposit box, it might cause a problem for your executor later, even if he knows it is there. Most states require that he file a request with the court to have it opened after your death so he can retrieve the will.

A Will Registry

Some states allow you to personally place your will with the court before your death. Others, such as Louisiana, allow you to make a record of where you have put your will so your executor can find it after your death. There are also commercial registries that will do this for you for a fee.

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Who Should Keep Your Last Will?

References

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Checklist for Creating a Last Will & Testament

While most states will not allow you to disinherit a spouse and certain legal requirements vary depending on where you live, for the most part the disposition of your property when you die is entirely up to you if you make a will. You should always check with an attorney, however, to make sure that your will complies with all the laws in your state.

What do You Do if You Can't Find a Will for a Deceased Relative?

Sometimes a testator neglects to tell her loved ones or the will's executor where to find her will in the event of her death. This can leave heirs and beneficiaries in a difficult position at a time when they are already grieving. Some states, like Texas, have provisions written into their statutes to address the issue of being unable to locate a will. Even then, the outcome may depend on whether or not you’ve been able to find a copy or if no indication of the testator’s last wishes exists at all.

How to Read a Last Will & Testament After a Death

TV shows sometimes include scenes in which an attorney for a recently deceased millionaire reads the will to the assembled relatives, causing shock and astonishment. However, no American jurisdiction requires a public will reading. Most people read a will at the court clerk's office. After a testator dies, the probate court reviews his will for validity and supervises its administration until the executor distributes estate property to the heirs. This is termed probate. Anyone can read or copy the will at the courthouse during and after probate.

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