Storing a Will
Storing A Will
So you have just made up a new Will, either by yourself or with the assistance of a solicitor. That’s great! Making a current Will is an important accomplishment and you can resume enjoying your life without that added weight on your mind. However, you know that your Will is a very important document and needs to be kept safe. How do you accomplish that?
What do you do with your old Will?
If you have an old Will, there should be a clause in the new Will which states that all previous Wills are revoked. From the moment your current Will is executed, all previous Wills become invalid.
However, that doesn’t mean that a mix up can’t occur. If you don’t notify your Executors about your new Will, they may mistakenly apply for Probate using the old Will. This is a very costly mistake, as the entire process will need to be repeated if the current Will is discovered or a beneficiary under the current Will contests the application. .
It is very important that the original and any copies of your previous Wills are dealt with properly and this is a decision that you have to make. On the one hand, to avoid any confusion the safest option might be to simply destroy the original and any copies of the previous Wills. If someone else if holding your Will, such as a solicitor, you would need to instruct the solicitor to destroy the Will as soon as possible.
On the other hand, it is often the case that if there is a dispute over a Will the Court can use the previous Wills to properly understand the decisions you have made and to confirm that the most recent Will is a true reflection of your intentions. If you want to retain a copy of your old Will for whatever reason, you might choose to place a large cross through each page, or write the word “VOID” on each page of your Will and sign and date those marks.
Where to store your Will?
Currently in South Australia, there is no ‘central Will bank’. As such, how and where a Will is stored in entirely up to the Testator (the person making the Will).
However, there are three critical steps in storing a Will that will save your Executors a lot of time and stress when the Will is ultimately required. These are as follows:-
- Ensure the Executors know the exact location of the original Will. “In with my other important things” doesn’t usually cut it! If you choose to keep your original Will at home, specify to your Executors exactly where you keep it i.e. a safe or a locked drawer. If you choose to have your original Will stored by a solicitor, tell your Executors which solicitor has the original, and provide them with the relevant contact details.However, you are under no obligation to inform your Executors or anyone else about the contents of your Will. It is a private and confidential document and it is up to you who you disclose its contents to.
- Make sure the Will is not altered at all after it is signed. Puncturing the Will with a staple or placing additional writing on it can raise questions from the Probate Registry about whether your Will is the true original. Your Executors will usually have to swear an Affidavit explaining the damage, which will incur costs to your estate and lengthen the process of obtaining Probate. In extreme cases, it may even result in your estate being declared Intestate, meaning the wishes contained in your Will may not be carried out. Store the Will where it won’t be damaged. Similar to step 2, any damage can mean your Will may not be accepted by the Probate registry.Storing your Will in a plastic sleeve or envelope in a cool, dry place can prevent the pages being damaged- and saving your Executors a lot of hassle! Storing your Will at home can also be risky. If a fire or flood occurs, your original Will may be destroyed and you will need to execute an entirely new Will.
So storing your Will is not as straight forward as leaving it in a desk drawer. Even when your Will is complete, there is the added stress of finding somewhere safe to leave it.
At Webster’s Lawyers, we offer safe and secure solution to any Will storage problems. After preparing your Will, we can store your original Will (and any previous copies of your choosing) in our firm’s Safe Custody safe located at our Adelaide Office. For the nominal one time fee of $25.00, your Will can be securely stored until required by your Executors. We also register your Will with the Law Society of South Australia so that if any issues arise, the Law Society can be contacted and notify your Executors that your Will is being stored at our Adelaide Office.
For further information about preparing, executing and storing a Will, please contact us for a consultation with one of our expert Wills and Estate lawyers.