Where to Record a Last Will & Testament

By April Kohl

Wills that are recorded become a matter of public record, which makes them easier to find when the time comes to use them. Although wills do not have to be recorded, the advantages of always knowing that they are stored on file, ready to use, can outweigh the disadvantage of anyone being able to access them.

Probate Court

Some states allow a will to be recorded at the probate court with jurisdiction over the area where the testator resides. The will must be the original, as copies are generally not accepted, and the will must be accompanied by affidavits by the witnesses that they witnessed the testator sign the will. This form of recorded will is often referred to as a “self-probating" will.

Document Recording Companies

Many companies offer document holding or recording services. The companies store important documents for a fee, which makes them a useful service for anyone who does not wish to risk keeping the documents at home. The downside of using a document recording company is that unless they are notified of the client's death, they will not know to release the will. Therefore, it's a good idea to keep some record of where the will is located.

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Considerations

When recorded at the probate court, a will becomes a document on the public record. This means that anyone can access it, so anything in it cannot be kept secret. As a result, it is usually a good idea to keep the will factual and refrain from mentioning anything that would be regarded as a family secret.

Warning

The will must conform to state laws on wills in order to record a will at the probate court. This is not always true of documents stored with recording companies, but where a will does not conform to state law, it risks being declared invalid. To avoid this problem, it may be best to have an attorney draw up a will.

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References

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