Many clients ask us: “Will you store my Will?” The answer is: No.
Over the years, many lawyers adopted the practice of storing original Wills in some form of fireproof storage unit in their office. We have seen the results. In most cases, when we are asked to look after the estate, we phone the lawyer and they provide us with the original Will.
However, in far too many cases, there is a different result. The lawfirm that stored the Will has disbanded and the lawyers have moved to different lawfirms. The lawyer who agreed to store the Will has retired from the profession or moved away from Alberta. The lawyer who agreed to store the Will has passed away.
The Law Society of Alberta keeps records of where a lawyer stores their Wills and who takes over storage when they retire or pass away. However, both our office and the Personal Representative are left with the task of tracking down the whereabouts of all those original Wills. Typically, the longer the Will has been in storage with the lawyer, the more difficult it is to locate the original. In many cases, we have been unable to find the original Will.
We have no desire to leave our clients in a similar position so we have adopted the practice of asking clients to store their own original Wills. We do ask our clients where they plan to store the original and then we record that information in our database. When the time comes, that information has been helpful to many people. Also, we have recently adopted the practice of scanning all Wills and other estate documents once they are signed so we have a signed copy in electronic form.
So, where do we recommend that you store your original Will?
If you have a safety deposit box, then store your Will in that safety deposit box. Provide a copy of your Will to your Personal Representative with a notation on the front indicating the location of the safety deposit box. It has been our experience that the financial institution will permit the Personal Representative to open the safety deposit box, remove the original Will, make a list of the contents, and then close the box until a Grant has been obtained from the Court.
If you do not have a safety deposit box, then we do not recommend getting one just to store your Will. Instead, invest in a small fireproof storage box that you can keep at home. This is the perfect place to store your Will and other estate documents along with other items such as your passport. Of course, the better solution for fireproof storage is one that is secure. For example, a small storage box or safe that can be bolted to the floor is ideal.
We have known many people who have stored their Will in a plastic bag in their freezer. Typically, a freezer has enough insulation that in the event of a house fire, the contents of the freezer are saved. A small plastic bag taped to the roof or top of the freezer will keep the contents safe and dry.
Another storage alternative is to leave the original document with your Personal Representative. However, this means you must retrieve the document anytime you want to make a change and the contents will be disclosed. Many people prefer to keep their Will confidential.
We also recommend storing your Enduring Power of Attorney and Personal Directive in the same location as your Will. Whenever you meet with us to complete the Enduring Power of Attorney and Personal Directive, we will provide you with two originals. One is to keep with the original Will and the other is to keep in a handy location in your residence so it is available for immediate use should the need arise.
If you are thinking of preparing a Will, Power of Attorney, and Personal Directive, please visit the Wills and Estates section of our website to gain some further insights. When you are ready, please contact us to book an appointment. In most cases, we can meet with you, complete the documents and have them signed all in one meeting.