Monday, November 26, 2012

What if you can't find the lawyer who drafted the will?

I received a note last week from a reader whose mother had passed away. He has an unsigned copy of her will, but said he can't find the original will because he can't find the lawyer who drew it up in 1987.

I assume that he has already searched the house thoroughly, and has tried local directories and google to locate the lawyer.  However, chances are good that in the last 25 years the lawyer has retired or possibly even passed away.

This is one of many, many reasons not to rely on a will that is 25 years old, but I'll leave that topic for another day. A lot of you are finding out every day that it's pretty darn hard to find a will this old. I have a couple of suggestions for you.

First of all, ask at the bank whether the deceased person had a safe deposit box. This is a very popular place to hold original wills. Note that if they do have the original will, they won't release it to anyone but the executor named in the will.

If the lawyer who drew the will worked at a firm (as opposed to working solo), call the firm and ask about the will. Normally when a lawyer retires or passes away, the firm will take possession of files and other items such as wills.

If the lawyer worked solo or if the firm can't help, call the Law Society (not the Canadian Bar Association) for the province where the deceased lived. Ask if there is any information about whether the lawyer has retired, and if so, whether anyone was appointed to look after his or her files.

Even if he finds the original will, the problems aren't over. If the will is being probated, there has to be an affidavit or proof of will (the form varies between provinces) attached to it to give evidence of proper following of the formalities of signing the will. The odds are against that document being attached to the will. It's common practice today to attach the document at the time the will was made, but that wasn't the case 25 years ago.

1 comment:

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