Once you have made your will, you want to ensure a copy of your will gets to those people who will need it. After you have passed, your will will be need to be executed – meaning the instructions you outlined for distribution of assets and final instructions will need to carried out. This raises the issue of who should have a copy of your will as well as where to safely store the original for accessibility when needed. Here are the basic recommendations of who you should give a copy to.
Who Should Have a Copy of Your Last Will and Testament
When you create a will, it’s important to ensure that the document is safely stored and that key individuals are aware of its existence. Here’s a list of people and entities you should consider giving a copy of your will to:
Start with your lawyer who made up the will. Having an attorney draft your will does more than make it a stronger legal document. It creates a record of the actions taken to create it since it becomes a part of a lawyer’s professional practice. It is much harder for someone to challenge the validity of a will if a lawyer is willing to stand up in court and discuss the process of making your will with you. Your lawyer will give you the original and keep a copy.
Part of your will is the naming of an executor, also known as a personal representative. You will want that person to have a copy as well. Your choice of an executor should not be a secret from that person. If the executor can not serve, you can change or update your will accordingly.
Family Members or Beneficiaries
It’s a good practice to inform your immediate family members or beneficiaries about the existence of your will and where it is stored. While you may not necessarily give everybody a physical copy, they should know how to access it when the time comes. Most folks will make sure their spouse will know where the wills are and sometimes give copies to their children if they are heirs. If you are concerned about sharing the will’s details, or excluding beneficiaries, discuss your desire for privacy and the best way to handle this with your lawyer.
If you plan to leave part of your estate to a charitable organization, the organization likely should be given a copy. Again follow the advice of your attorney for the best way to inform the charity of your intentions.
Trusted Friends and Advisors
You may choose to share a copy of your will with a close friend, financial advisor, or other trusted individuals who can provide guidance and support to your executor and beneficiaries. For example, you may want to give a copy to a trusted friend, your financial advisor, or CPA, in case your beneficiary is a child/young person who may need help understanding the financial implications of inheritance.
Your lawyer is also a trusted advisor who can be a good source of legal guidance especially when it comes to probate and estate administration.
Safekeeping the Original Will
It’s important to strike a balance between keeping your original will secure and ensuring that the relevant parties can access it when needed. Always let your executor and trusted individuals know where the original will is stored, and provide clear instructions for accessing it. Additionally, review your will periodically and make updates as necessary to reflect any changes in your wishes or circumstances and alert relevant individuals of the new will and its location.
If you keep your will in a safe deposit box, you should inform your executor or a trusted family member or friend about what bank it is located at, as they will need access to it upon your death. Some banks may require a court order to open a safe deposit box after the owner’s death, so it’s essential to make arrangements in advance.
James Provenza Leading Chicago Estate Planning Attorney
James Provenza and his associates have tremendous experience and knowledge when it comes to will, trusts, and all aspects of estate planning. As a Chicago estate planning attorney, with 40 years in practice, Attorney Provenza is a reliable source of good legal advice and guidance. Discuss with him about who needs to have a copy of your will as well as safely storing the original. Distributing it to all of the right parties can prevent problems for your loved ones when you pass.