Where should I store my Last Will?
By: ADAM DE LUCA
A Will is one of the most significant documents you will prepare in your lifetime. Safekeeping of your original Will is vital. If your Will is accidentally destroyed or if your Estate Trustee cannot locate it, you run the risk of having your Estate distributed according to the rules of intestate succession, and not according to your stated wishes.
When it comes to Will storage, there are a few things to keep in mind:
- Your Will needs to be held in a secure location;
- The location should be fireproof, waterproof and pest proof; and
- Your Will should be accessible to your Estate Trustee.
Many Canadians choose to store their Wills:
- In a safe at home;
- With the lawyer that drafted it; or
- A safety deposit box at a bank.
In a Safe:
Storing your Wills in a safe at your home is a low-cost, convenient way of keeping your estate planning documents at arms reach for the Estate Trustee. At minimum, you will want to ensure that your safe is well-built and hidden to avoid theft. Your safe should be fireproof and waterproof, and your Estate Trustee must know how to locate and access it. By storing your Will at home in a safe, you can easily access and review your Will from time to time to ensure that it is still in line with your wishes as your life circumstances change.
With a Lawyer:
Some lawyers provide their clients with the option of storing their estate planning documents at their law firm. Keeping your original Will with your lawyer reduces the risk of accidentally losing or destroying your Will, but it is not a problem-free solution. The law firm or drafting lawyer may not survive you, meaning that you are relying on the law firm to have a proper succession plan of its own to ensure that your Estate Trustee can locate and access your Will. Additionally, the testator may die without revealing to anyone the law firm holding their original Will. If you do have your original Will with a law firm, it is important to stay connected and in touch with their business succession plan.
Safety Deposit Box:
A safety deposit box at a bank is clearly a secure place to store your Will. The problem with this method is that it can be too secure. In order for your Estate Trustee to access your Will, many banks will require a grant of probate, confirming their authority to act as your Estate Trustee before permitting them access to the safety deposit box. However, in order to obtain a grant of probate, your Estate Trustee will require your original Will, creating a “catch-22”, and delaying the administration of your Estate. Because of this, we recommend not storing your Will in a safety deposit box unless your appointed Estate Trustee has signing authority and access.
Whatever your preference of Will storage, it is critical to inform your Estate Trustee and loved ones of its location and exactly how to access it upon your death. You may also want to store other important estate planning documents with your Will such as power of attorney documents and funeral wishes. At NIKA LAW, we recommend either i) storing your Will in a safe at your home provided your Trustee has access, or ii) Custodius, a relatively new platform in Ontario which provides secure Will storage for original documents, with a straightforward diligent procedure for after-death access. To learn more about Custodius, visit https://www.custodius.ca/.