After signing your Last Will & Testament (“Will”), you may be tempted to not think about it again. After all, thinking about your death and what will happen to your loved ones and your assets after you are gone isn’t the most fun thing to think about. But before you move on, there’s one more important thing you need to think about: Where are you going to store your original Will? Generally there are two options, you can either keep your original Will yourself or have a third-party hold it for you.
If you are planning to keep your original Will in your possession, it is a good idea to keep it with your other important personal papers. Many individuals choose to keep their Will in a fireproof safe or cabinet within their home. If you choose this option, make sure your Executor/Personal Representative has access to the location by passcode or key.
If you choose to have a third-party hold your original Will, there are quite a few options. First, you can place it within a safety deposit box at your local bank. If you decide to choose this option, it’s important that someone else has access to the box. This could be achieved by jointly owning the box with another person or having a power of attorney in place with the authority to access the box. Each banking institution may have slightly different rules with regard to how they handle another person’s access to your safety deposit box after your death. This is a question you should ask the bank before establishing the box. Some institutions will allow you to leave instructions following your death while others will not allow anyone access after your death unless they were specifically named on the box.
A second option is to file your Will with the Register of Wills Office in the county where you reside. In Maryland, this can be done for a fee of $5.00. The Register of Wills Office will keep your original Will on file but the Will is not made a part of public record until you have passed away and a formal estate is opened. The downside to this is that if you want to make changes to your current Will, you will need to pull your original Will out of the Register of Wills Office and then file the new one again for another fee. This also may not be the best option if you ever intend to move out of state.
Another option that may be available is to have your estate planning attorney hold your original Will. Some estate planning attorneys will provide this service as a courtesy or for a nominal fee.
Finally, you can always leave your Will in the possession of the Executor/Personal Representative that you have named in your Will. After all, this is the person who will need access to your Will after you pass away. If you choose this option, it is important that the Will be kept in a safe place.
Regardless of how you choose to store your original Will, it is always important to let a loved one and/or your Executor/Personal Representative know where your original Will is being stored and how to access it when you are gone. Finally, it is also good practice to shred or dispose of old Wills after you have signed a new one. While most Wills contain a clause stating that the latest dated Will supersedes any prior dated Wills, it is much less confusing to discard documents that are no longer valid.