Sunday, November 10, 2013

Filing a Will With the Court 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 knowledge that when the time comes, the will will be found and its terms carried out. 

Unfortunately, sometimes it's not that way.  Sometimes clients have to resort to deception and skulduggery just to make their will, and they want to keep it a secret.  Sometimes they are comfortable having people know they made a Will, but they don't want the location of the Will to be known.  

In those situations I always look at whether anyone with access to the will would benefit from its disappearance. I recently had a client 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 this client long enough and well enough to know this is all legit, but he is very concerned that his nephew would be called to his residence if he died, and the will would not be secure.  (As an aside, in my view a person would have to be conscience-less to destroy a Will, but sadly there are a lot of folks like that)  My client is uncomfortable keeping the Will in a safe deposit box, and uncomfortable about leaving it with me.  I suggested that we file the Will for safekeeping with Surrogates Court, while he is still living.  

Many people, including lawyers, don't know you can do this.  You CAN, and it can be very useful.  It costs $45 to file.  The benefit of this is clear:  A person who doesn't like the Will can't get at it.  Furthermore, if the person dies and the bad person tries to file an Administration proceeding as if there were no Will (which is what they always do), the Surrogates Court clerks ALWAYS checks for wills on file.  This stops the bad guys in their tracks.  I have filed wills for safekeeping quite a few times in the last 30 years.  I know of a few instances where it prevented mischief.  Just as important though, is that the clients always felt better having done it, and they always appreciated the advice.


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  2. This is very useful information for someone who needs a safe place for his Will. And it doesn’t even cost that much. I wish more people knew about this so that less mischief was done concerning Wills.
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  3. Excellent useful post, nice points Discussed.
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