Protecting Your Estate Planning Documents From Disaster

Where should I store my will?

After a year of catastrophic fires in California and unprecedented hurricanes hitting both Texas and Florida, Americans have become more acutely aware of the importance of preserving our valued personal items.  When a natural disaster strikes, you want to make sure that your important documents are in a safe place.  Some of the most critical documents that you will want to preserve are your estate planning documents.  If your original will is destroyed, it can could complicate the probate process and negatively impact your heirs.

Why You Need Your Original Will

Your original will is vital to the probate process in California.  To commence probate in the state, your loved ones must file the original will in court.  If the original will is missing, it can become challenging to open probate.  A legal presumption exists that if a will is missing, and it was last in possession of the competent testator, then the will was in fact revoked.  While this presumption can be overcome through the use of a duplicate, the entire probate process will become more complex for your grieving heirs.  As such, it is best to take steps now to protect your original will and other estate planning documents.

Carefully Consider Where You Place Your Will

You have many options when it comes to storing your estate planning documents.  One of the first places that most people consider is leaving the will in their home.  While your home can be a safe and readily accessible place to store your will, you will need to take steps to guard it against disaster.  Consider storing your will in a fire and waterproof safe.  You will need to ensure someone you trust knows of its location and has the key or lock combination.

If you decide to forego a safe, at least keep your will on a high shelf away from potential flooding.  Take it with you if you must evacuate your home for any reason.  Resist the urge to hide your will, as your heirs may be unable to find it in the event of your death.

Other options for storing your will include placing it in a safe deposit box or leaving it with your estate planning lawyer.  If you elect to use a safe deposit box, you may want to name a joint owner.  Otherwise, your loved ones may need a court order to access the box.  For many, their attorney’s office is the safest choice as your lawyer will retain the original and copies of the will to protect your heirs even if disaster strikes.