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Saturday, July 24, 2010

Where should I store my Will?

When finding a good spot to keep your original Will, there are two basic goals to keep in mind. One is that you need a secure place where your documents will be safe from theft, fire, water damage and nosy people. The other is that your Will has to be accessible to your executor after you pass away.

The most popular place to keep a Will is the safe deposit box at the bank. Often people worry that although this is secure, the executor won't be able to get the Will after the testator has passed away. However, if the executor approaches the bank with the deceased's death certificate (particularly if he or she already has a photocopy of the Will), the bank staff will deal with this and produce the original Will.

Another secure place is the office of the lawyer who drew the Will. If you've appointed a trust company, you can also store your Will for free in the trust company's vault. If you choose either of these options, make sure you tell your executor where the original is being kept. Otherwise you run the risk that it will take weeks or months to find your Will, or that it won't be found at all.

Some people like to keep their documents in a locked safe in their home. Again the problem is acessibility. Will your executor be able to get into the safe after you've passed away? I've also noticed that although many safes are fire-proof, they are not water-proof and people who keep their safe in the basement sometimes find that their documents are water damaged.

It's not a good idea to keep your original Will with the general papers lying around your home. Doing so leaves it vulnerable to fire and loss, and open to the eyes of anyone who might be curious.

Your Enduring (Continuing) Power of Attorney should be kept together with your Will.

Storage of your Personal (health-care) Directive is another matter. This is a document that might be needed in a hurry. If you are in a car accident on a Friday night, your spokesperson can't wait for the bank or the lawyer's office to open on Monday to get your document. It's a good idea to have this document readily available in a desk drawer or filing cabinet.

Wherever you choose to store your original documents, make sure that you tell the person you've named that they are named. Otherwise, they won't even search for your document.


  1. Lynne,
    Couple of additional thoughts:
    1) add the executor as a signature to your safety deposit box and then they can get your original will after your death.
    2) distribute photocopies or send via email key documents such as your personal directive, funeral instructions, will to your immediate family and especially to the personal representative or alternate.

    What I did for Mom's was to email these out every other year as usually everyone upgraded their phones and not everything was reloaded. We had each set up a directory called private-family. Mom was concerned over my sister and wanted to be very clear with everyone what her wishes were so the information was to be available for discussion prior.

    My last tip: Of course everyone thinks that when the phone call comes in the middle of the night to go to the ICU you'd think you'll remember to grab the paper document on your way out the door -- but you don't. Or at least I didn't. I was too busy trying to process the information the doctor told you, searching for your shoe, and remembering where your keys and wallet are.

    And, given the size of Calgary some information needs to be communicated within short periods of time and you don't have time to go cross town and get it.

    However it is accessible via a smart phone where you can access email. Then bring up the document, scroll the paragraph and communicate that to the doctors and witnesses.

    And, if you are going to email this out - include the name and phone number of the funeral home that is closest to where the family is living. Then before you leave the hospital they can be contacted and that process initiated.

    Keep up the great work, Lynne!

  2. Thanks for adding some very practical tips.


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