Wednesday, June 27, 2007

Filing a Will for Safekeeping

Questions sometimes arise about where to keep a Will, and who to tell about a Will. In a perfect world, where families are close and people communicate openly, this would not be an issue. The person who makes a will should discuss it with his trusted family members and tell them where the will is, confident in the knowlege that when the time comes, the will will be found and its terms carried out. There are times when it's not that way, and even times when clients want and need to resort to deception and skullduggery to make their will, but keep it safe and a secret until they pass.

I always look at whether anyone with access to the will would benefit from its disappearance. I had a client recently whose closest living relative is a nephew. He likes the nephew well enough, but they are not close. He has the nephew in the will for about $50,000, has some other cash bequests, and leaves the rest (about $400,000) to his best friend, and if his best friend dies first, to his friend's family. I know him long enough and well enough to know it's legit, but he is very concerned that his nephew would be called to his residence if he died, and the will would be gone. He also is uncomfortable keeping it in a safe deposit box, and uncomfortable about leaving it with me. I suggested that we file it for safekeeping with Surrogates Court, while he is still living. Many people, and many lawyers, don't know you can do this, but it can be very useful. It costs $40 to file. Whenever anyone files an Administration proceeding (claiming there is no will), the Clerk ALWAYS checks for wills on file. I have filed wills for safekeeping about 10 times in the last 25 years. I don't know if it ever stopped skullduggery, but whenever I do it, the clients always appreciate the advice.


  1. great advice. i am going to pass it on to my family members. also: "skullduggery:" priceless!