If you’re reading this article then I’m going to assume that you’ve already put your Will in place. Firstly, well done for doing it and making sure that your wishes are clear about what happens after your death.
Now once you have a Will in place I recommend that you consider 3 things:
- Where do you store your Will?
- Who do you tell about it?
- When do you review it?
For this article we’ll tackle each question to help you think about what is most appropriate in your circumstances.
Where to Store Your Will
It may sound obvious but the original signed version of your Will is an incredibly important document. The reason for this is because, after your death, your Executors are going to need to present the original version of your Will to the Probate Registry (if a Grant of Probate is required in your Estate).
So what are your storage options and how can you keep the original version of your Will safe?
Your first thought may be to keep your original Will at home with your other important papers. This may seem sensible, but you need to appreciate the risk that it could get lost, stolen or accidentally destroyed. Unfortunately floods and fire occur in people’s homes across the country every day.
If you’ve written your own Will then one option would be to store it in a safe deposit box at your bank. However you need to bear in mind that the bank is likely to charge you for having it and also, from a practical perspective, how are your Executors going to access it after you’re gone? The bank will require evidence of the Executor’s authority to access the safe deposit box, but the authority is contained in the Will that’s in the box!
Another option is to store your original Will with the Probate Registry. You can do this once the Will is in place but they do charge a fee for this service.
If you’ve had your Will professionally prepared then the company will usually ask if you’d like them to store your Will, once it’s been written.
But it’s important to note that a number of legal services providers charge separately for the storage of a Will, either as a one-off lifetime fee or on an annual recurring basis. You should always ask about this at the outset when choosing a company to write your Will so you fully understand what is included within any quote you receive, ensuring there are no nasty surprises.
There will also be other legal providers, such as Co-op Legal Services, that offer to store your Co-op Will completely free of charge for your lifetime.
Who to Tell About Your Will
A Will is a highly personal document that contains sensitive information so it’s understandable that many people want the contents to remain private up until their death. However, on a practical basis, it can be incredibly helpful to let your loved ones know that you’ve made a Will and where it’s stored. Just this snippet of information can save an awful lot of time and expense for your family who will need to find out whether a Will exists after your death, and where it’s kept.
If you’re comfortable sharing the contents of your Will with your Executors or family members then you can simply provide them with a photocopy. If it was professionally prepared then you can request extra photocopies once your Will has been completed and sent for storage. The benefit is that people will know that you have a Will, who prepared it, where it’s stored and what it says.
When to Review Your Will
Even though you have your Will in place, it’s important to keep it under review in case your circumstances or your wishes change. As a general rule of thumb, re-checking the contents of your Will every 3 years is sensible.
You will need to review your Will earlier if you experience a significant life event, such as a change in your financial circumstances, the death of a current beneficiary named in your Will, or the birth of new relatives that you might want to include in your Will, such as a grandchild.
Keeping your Will up to date with your wishes is an ongoing responsibility. If you wish to make changes to your Will then you can’t just take a pen and write over your existing Will – it needs to be done formerly. Speak with your legal services provider about the cost of changing your Will and what’s involved. You’ll need either a new Will or a codicil which, once prepared, will have to be signed again in the presence of two witnesses.
For more information see How Much Does it Cost to Change Your Will?