Storing your will is nearly as important as getting one done in the first place. After all, if a will is drafted but no one can find it, does it make a difference? Secure storage should be a primary concern for such an important document, yet surprisingly often wills wind up in the oddest locations. Take Aretha Franklin. Despite her success, wealth, and status as the “Queen of Soul,” she had three handwritten wills one of which was discovered under the cushions of her living room couch.Aretha Franklin Will Found Under A Couch New York City Estate Litigation Attorneys Antonelli & Antonelli 

During a regular couch cleaning, we expect to see stale chips and loose change, but something as important as a will should be given a little more Respect (1967). A will is an important legal document, so it’s critical to preserve the original and to ensure that your executors know where to find it after your death. 

Not sure where to keep your will? It’s worthwhile to Think (1968) about it. Your beneficiaries will thank you.

The four best places to store your will. 

  1. A safe deposit box at a bank is a secure place to store your will but it has a big drawback—your executor will need access to it before the Surrogate’s Court can deem it valid. If a bank becomes aware of your death, they will likely require a court order to enter the safe deposit box. In New York, this requires a special court proceeding. It’s not the longest or most expensive proceeding, but it adds to The Weight (1969) already on the executor’s back.
     
  2. A personal safe is another option that provides a reasonable amount of protection. The big drawback here is that if your will goes missing and is known to have been in your possession at the time of your death, then there will be a presumption that you revoked it. And wills often go missing whether because of fire, flood, theft, or the all-to-common “accidental throwing away.”
     
  3. In most counties in New York, you can file your will with the Surrogate’s Court. This option protects your will, avoids any presumption that you revoked it, and leaves it accessible to your executor. Filing your will does not make it public (until someone tries to probate it), but some people still have concerns with the court Holdin’ On (2003) to it. And if you decide you want the will back, it could turn into a worse option than the alternatives presented here.
     
  4. Finally, you can leave the will with your attorney for safekeeping. Although we might be a bit biased on this one, having your attorney store your will in a fireproof safe provides many benefits. It’s physically protected. There’s complete confidentiality. Retrieving the will is simple. And if the will is lost, stolen, or destroyed while in the possession of your attorney, then no presumption of revocation arises.

Regardless of where you decide to keep your will, the key is to tell your executors where to find it. Give them a copy and all the information they need to retrieve it.

While there isn’t one solution that’s best for everyone, these are generally your best bets: put it in a bank or personal safe deposit box, file it with the Surrogate’s Court, or leave it with your attorney. Just don’t leave it in the couch cushions.

If you need help finding deceased family member’s will, Call Me (1970). I tell all my clients that, when we meet, I’ll help you accomplish What Y’All Came to Do (2007). And if you decide to leave your own will with me, I’ll keep it safe Until You Come Back to Me (1974).

Do You Need LegalHelp Regarding Probate  Or Estate Litigation In The New York Metro Area?

If a loved one died without a will and you need legal assistance regarding the probate process, or you find yourself involved in estate litigation you should be speak with an experienced probate attorney as soon as possible. Contact us online or call our New York City office directly at 212.227.2424 to schedule your free consultation. We proudly serve clients throughout northern New Jersey and New York including Brooklyn, Manhattan, Queens, Staten Island, The Bronx, Nassau County and Westchester County.

Meredith Poole-Humphreys
Helping people in the New York City Metro area with probate, administration and estate litigation matters.
1 Comments
A very cogent, useful and comprehensive analysis of what to do with an executed last will.
by Gary F Smith August 10, 2021 at 12:09 PM
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