“Where should I put my Will for safekeeping?”

Long H. Duong, Esq. Last Will & Testament

David M. Goldman, author of FloridaEstatePlanningLawyerBlog.com wrote a post titled:  “Ten Florida Estate Planning and Probate Tips – 2008” where he made one suggestion that I’m always on the fence about:

7. Put all your estate planning documents in a safe deposit box.

Florida estate planning and Florida Probate tip #7: Obtain a safe deposit box and put your original Florida estate planning and other important documents in the box. Fire safes and file cabinets are certainly better than nothing if you let somebody know where to look. However, many Wills vanish or are lost shortly before death. If the original cannot be found and the original was last seen in your possession, Florida courts presume that you destroyed or revoked the Will. While a copy of a Florida Will can sometimes be probated in a Florida probate, it can be expensive and not always successful.

Here’s my take:

If you have reason to believe that the security of your Will is vulnerable to nosy family members and houseguests, you should certainly consider a safety deposit box.  The inevitable problem is that if you don’t give a third party authorized access to the box, then your personal representative will need to secure an order to search the contents.  Though that’s not as painful a process as it sounds, it can certainly delay matters.

In my honest opinion, home safes (fireproof or otherwise) are actually a bad idea.  If you lose the key or don’t make the combination accessible to a third party, your personal representative is in trouble (and suddenly, a safe deposit box sounds like a great idea – because in the worst case scenario, someone can physically open the box.)

Point is, there is no great solution as to where to put your Will.  Now, I’ve never looked into it myself, but I always thought that banks should provide an option for box holders to grant a third party access to the box only if he or she could produce a death certificate.  The intial purpose for access would only be to secure the original Will for deposit with the appropriate county clerk.

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