Once you’ve taken the step to create a will and get your estate plan in order, you need to figure out what to do with the will itself. It is important to keep track of the location of your current will as well as any old wills, and to ensure that your loved ones know how to find it in the event of your death or incapacity.
Where to keep a will
The safest place to keep the original copy of your will is in a bank safe deposit box, but it may not always be the most practical. If the will is in a safe deposit box, it may be difficult for your family to access the box after you die. A better option may be to keep it at home in a fire-proof safe. Just make sure your family members know how to open the safe.
Some attorneys may keep the original copy of the will. But if you leave the will with your attorney, make sure the attorney receives updated contact information from you when you move. That way if the attorney moves offices or retires, he or she will know where to find you and you will know where your will is.
If you do use a safe deposit box or your attorney’s office, you may want to keep a copy of your will at home with your other financial documents. It is usually not a good idea to give a copy to family members or friends because you may want to change the distributions at some point and may need the will back.
What do you do with an old will?
Once you have written a new will, your inclination may be to destroy the old will, but this may not be a good idea. If, for some reason, your new will is invalidated, the court may be willing to reinstate an old will rather than allowing your estate to pass intestate (according to state law). It is likely that your old will adheres more closely to your wishes than an intestate distribution. If the will is destroyed, it cannot be reinstated.
On the other hand, if you have made a major change in your will, by all means destroy the old one. Otherwise, someone who did better under the old will may argue that you were incompetent or under undue influence when you executed the new will. Also, their feelings may be hurt if they see a change in your sentiments towards them.
Making changes to a will
If you want to make changes to a will, do not mark up the will by hand, even if you have only small changes to make. A court could take a marked-up will as a sign that you intended to revoke the will. If you want to make a change, contact us to draft an amendment to the will (called a codicil).