I was recently asked by a local bank about how to get access to a decedent’s safe deposit box to find decedent’s Will. Ultimately, they had to go to the local probate court, obtain a court order, wait until court personnel could accompany them to the safe deposit box, pay for the cost of drilling the box, and wait weeks until the bank could be appointed as the executor of the decedent’s Will.
I am often asked where is the best place to keep someone’s Will. I have become to believe that the worst choice is someone’s safe deposit box, followed closely by their house. In the past few years, I have had more than one client die who retained their original Will. In many of these cases, the original Will could not be found. This ended up in more costs, hassles and time delays than if the Will had been kept in a place where someone could have found it.
Other choices are to keep the original Will in my office or to give it to the person named as executor to safeguard. Either of these are good choices. It is also not a bad idea to file the original Will with the Register of Wills in your County (though some Counties will not do this anymore AND what happens if you move, will someone remember to go look at the Register of Wills where you had once lived?).
In my opinion, the best solution, however, is to have a Revocable Trust in place. If someone has created a Revocable Trust, and has transferred their assets to the Revocable Trust, then their Will becomes a secondary document that is usually not very important. Not only is it less expensive to administer after death, but administering Revocable Trusts are often simpler and quicker than probating a Will. Finally, multiple copies of a Revocable Trust are often signed by clients, and a copy can often be as effective as the original. While a Revocable Trust is not for everyone, it can often serve as the best protection against keeping a Will to safe or being worried that your Will is going to be discovered by the wrong person.