Will Storage

Will Storage
Will Storage
Full Overview Of Will Storage

Proper storage of a will is an often overlooked yet crucial aspect of estate planning. At DLS Solicitors, we understand that the security and accessibility of your will are paramount to ensuring that your final wishes are honoured. This comprehensive overview will explore the importance of will storage, the options available, the legal considerations, and best practices to ensure your will is stored safely and effectively.

Understanding the Importance of Will Storage

A will is a legal document that outlines how your estate should be distributed after your death. Its validity and enforceability depend significantly on its safekeeping. Proper will storage ensures that:

  1. Security: The will is protected from loss, theft, damage, or unauthorised alterations.
  2. Accessibility: The will can be easily accessed by your executors when needed.
  3. Validation: The original document is available to validate your wishes, reducing the risk of disputes and legal challenges.

Failure to store a will properly can lead to several issues, including the possibility of the will being lost or damaged, which can complicate or even invalidate its execution.

Options for Will Storage

Several options are available for storing a will, each with its own advantages and considerations. These include:

Home Storage:

  • Advantages: Immediate access and no storage fees.
  • Disadvantages: Risk of loss, damage, or unauthorised access, especially in the event of fire, flooding, or burglary.

Solicitor Storage:

  • Advantages: Professional security, accountability, and the ability to update the will easily.
  • Disadvantages: Potential fees for storage and retrieval, and the need to inform executors of the solicitor’s details.

Bank Safety Deposit Box:

  • Advantages: High security against physical damage and theft.
  • Disadvantages: Limited accessibility, especially if the executor does not have immediate access to the box.

Will Storage Companies:

  • Advantages: Specialised services, secure facilities, and often online tracking.
  • Disadvantages: Annual fees and reliance on the company’s longevity.

Registry of Wills:

  • Advantages: Centralised and recognised storage with easy retrieval for executors.
  • Disadvantages: Fees for registration and updates.

Legal Considerations For Will Storage

Proper will storage is not just about physical security; it also involves legal considerations to ensure that the will is valid and can be executed as intended. Crucial legal considerations include:

  • Original Document: The original signed will is generally required for probate. Copies are not usually accepted unless the original is proven to be lost or destroyed.
  • Informing Executors: Executors need to know where the will is stored and how to access it. This can be documented in a letter of wishes or communicated directly.
  • Confidentiality: The contents of the will should remain confidential until the time of death. Unauthorised disclosure can lead to disputes or attempts to alter the will.
  • Updating the Will: Regular reviews and updates to the will should be facilitated by the storage method to ensure it reflects current wishes and circumstances.

Best Practices for Will Storage

To ensure your will is stored securely and effectively, consider the following best practices:

  1. Choose a Secure Location: Select a storage option that provides both security and accessibility. Professional storage services, such as solicitors or will storage companies, often offer the best combination of both.
  2. Inform Your Executors: Make sure your executors know where the will is stored and how to access it. Provide them with necessary contact details and any required documentation for retrieval.
  3. Regularly Review and Update: Regularly review and update your will to reflect any changes in your circumstances, assets, or personal wishes. Ensure that any updates are properly executed and stored in the same secure manner.
  4. Keep Copies: While the original will must be kept safe, having copies in a secure location can help in case the original is lost or damaged. Inform your executors where these copies are kept.
  5. Use Professional Services: Consider using professional will storage services offered by solicitors or specialised companies. These services provide enhanced security and peace of mind.

Case Study: Importance of Proper Will Storage

To illustrate the importance of proper will storage, consider the following case study:

Scenario

Mr. Johnson, a retired engineer, created a detailed will outlining the distribution of his estate, including specific bequests to his children, grandchildren, and a charitable donation. He stored the will in his home office, in a desk drawer.

Issue

After Mr. Johnson’s death, his family could not locate the original will. Despite thorough searches, only a copy was found. The family faced difficulties proving the copy’s validity, leading to delays and legal challenges.

Resolution

The family eventually contacted Mr. Johnson’s solicitor, who had previously advised him on estate planning. Fortunately, the solicitor had a copy of the will’s initial draft, which, combined with affidavits from witnesses, helped validate the copy. However, the process was lengthy and stressful, highlighting the importance of proper will storage.

Lesson

This case underscores the risks associated with home storage and the importance of informing executors and using professional storage services.

Choosing the Right Storage Option

Selecting the appropriate storage option depends on various factors, including the size and complexity of the estate, personal preferences, and the need for security and accessibility. Here’s a closer look at each option:

Home Storage

  • When to Use: Suitable for straightforward estates with minimal risk of disputes and where executors are aware and capable of accessing the will.
  • Precautions: Use a fireproof and waterproof safe, inform executors of its location, and consider keeping a copy with a trusted individual.

Solicitor Storage

  • When to Use: Ideal for complex estates, frequent updates, and when professional oversight is desired.
  • Benefits: Solicitors provide legal advice, update services, and secure storage, reducing the risk of loss or damage.

Bank Safety Deposit Box

  • When to Use: Suitable for high-value estates and when top-tier physical security is desired.
  • Considerations: Ensure executors have the legal authority and necessary access to the safety deposit box upon death.

Will Storage Companies

  • When to Use: For those seeking specialised, professional storage with additional services such as online tracking.
  • Benefits: These companies offer dedicated will storage services with robust security measures.

Registry of Wills

  • When to Use: To centralise will storage and ensure easy retrieval by executors.
  • Advantages: Provides a recognised and centralised service, simplifying access for executors.

Informing Executors and Beneficiaries

A critical aspect of will storage is ensuring that your executors and, if appropriate, beneficiaries are informed about the will’s location and how to access it. Here are some tips:

  1. Written Instructions: Provide written instructions detailing the location of the will and any required steps to access it. This can be included in a letter of wishes.
  2. Direct Communication: Have a direct conversation with your executors to ensure they understand their responsibilities and how to access the will.
  3. Professional Advice: Encourage your executors to seek professional advice if they are unsure about any aspect of the will or its administration.

Regular Updates and Reviews

Regularly updating and reviewing your will is essential to ensure it remains valid and reflects your current wishes. Life events such as marriage, divorce, the birth of children, or significant changes in financial circumstances may necessitate updates to your will. Here’s how to manage updates:

  1. Scheduled Reviews: Review your will every few years or after major life events to ensure it remains up to date.
  2. Professional Assistance: Seek the assistance of a solicitor for updates to ensure they are legally valid and properly executed.
  3. Update Storage Records: Ensure that the updated will is stored securely, and inform your executors of any changes in its location or contents.

Conclusion

Proper will storage is a crucial aspect of effective estate planning. It ensures that your final wishes are honoured and that the administration of your estate proceeds smoothly and without unnecessary complications. At DLS Solicitors, we are committed to providing comprehensive guidance on all aspects of will storage, from selecting the appropriate storage option to ensuring executors are informed and prepared.

By following best practices, understanding the available storage options, and regularly reviewing and updating your will, you can safeguard your estate and provide peace of mind for yourself and your loved ones. Whether opting for professional storage services, using a bank safety deposit box, or storing your will at home, the key is to ensure that it is secure, accessible, and that your executors are fully informed and capable of carrying out their duties.

Will Storage FAQ'S

Your Will should be stored in a secure location such as a fireproof safe at home, a bank’s safe deposit box, with a solicitor, or through a professional Will storage service.

Yes, you can store your Will at home, but it should be kept in a fireproof and waterproof safe to protect it from damage. Ensure that your executors know where it is stored and have access to it.

A Will storage service is a professional service that securely stores your Will and ensures it is protected and accessible when needed. These services often provide additional benefits like regular updates and safe custody.

Yes, many solicitors offer Will storage services and will store your Will in a secure and fireproof environment. They will also keep a record of the Will to ensure it can be easily retrieved.

If you lose your original Will, it may cause complications in the probate process. It is advisable to make a copy and inform your executors of its location. If the original cannot be found, the court may accept a copy if it is proven that it was intended to be the valid Will.

Yes, it is important to inform your executors and close family members where your Will is stored to ensure it can be found and accessed promptly after your death.

Storing your Will in a bank safe deposit box can be very secure, but ensure that your executors have access to the box. Banks may require proof of death and the Grant of Probate to release the contents, which can delay the process.

While digital copies can be useful, the original Will must be a physical document. Some services offer secure digital storage of scanned copies, but you must still ensure the original is safely stored and accessible.

You should keep your Will stored securely for as long as it is valid. After your death, the Will should be stored until the estate is fully administered and any legal matters are resolved.

If you need to update your Will, you can either create a new Will or add a codicil to your existing Will. Ensure the updated document is stored in the same secure location, and inform your executors of the changes.

Disclaimer

This site contains general legal information but does not constitute professional legal advice for your particular situation. Persuing this glossary does not create an attorney-client or legal adviser relationship. If you have specific questions, please consult a qualified attorney licensed in your jurisdiction.

This glossary post was last updated: 11th July 2024.

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DLS Solicitors : Family Law Solicitors

Our team of professionals are based in Alderley Edge, Cheshire. We offer clear, specialist legal advice in all matters relating to Family Law, Wills, Trusts, Probate, Lasting Power of Attorney and Court of Protection.

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