The Importance of Keeping your Will Correctly and Securely Stored
Having finally “taken the plunge” as it were and got round to making a Will after umpteen years of putting it off, another very important decision has to made – where to keep the final signed document safely and perhaps more importantly, where the Executors will find it!
It is a common misconception that a copy Will is just as valid as the original signed and witnessed document (known as the engrossed Will). This is NOT the case. It is perfectly acceptable to take photocopies of your Will and distribute them to whomsoever you choose – in fact it is probably advisable to give photocopies to your Executors so that they are at least aware of what your requirements are ahead of the event – but they are only for information and have no legal validity. It is ONLY the ORIGINAL (engrossed) Will correctly dated, signed and witnessed which has legal validity and will be accepted by the Probate Office.
Even then, the Will can still “fail” if the Probate Office declares the final copy invalid due to incorrect Attestation (Signing and Witnessing). For example, if only one witness has signed, or it is found the Witnesses and Testator (person making the Will) were not together in the same room at the same time.
It may also be decalred invalid if it appears to have been tampered with, for example if the imprint of a paper clip, staple or other fixing device is found or if the remains of sellotape or glue or other fixatives are evident. Any of these may cause them to believe pages have been removed. Therefore, any letters, memoranda or expressions of wish are NEVER to be attached IN ANY WAY WHATEVER to the final Will document. Simply place them loose leaf within the Will cover or within an envelope addressed to the Executors and place the envelope in the Will cover.
More obvious things like additions or changes of text are acceptable provided they are initialled by Testator and the two witnesses who have signed as witnesses to the entire document, but only if the addition or amendments do not obscure any of the original text. Generally though, it is not acceptable or advisable to manually adjust text within the final engrossed Will, much better to have the text corrected (in the original font) so that a manual correction is not necessary.
It is a requirement that final copies of Wills are securely bound in some way, this is to ensure that any removal of pages from the body of the Will is obvious from the remains left in the binding and as all pages are numbered, often it is equally obvious from non-sequential page numbers.
Where to keep your final engrossed Will is entirely your decision, however if you know you are not very good at filing and keeping things safe, it is probably a very good idea to send your document to professional secure storage where you know it will be safely and securely kept out of harm’s way from the likes of fire, flood or even theft. All banks offer secure storage facilities and most Will-Writing Companies have their own arrangements. My Company is no exception, and will offer you secure storage of any documents you care to give to us with no restrictions on access whatsoever. We also advise your Executors that we are holding your documents for you so that in the event of your death, they know how to retrieve them easily and quickly at what can be a very stressful time.
Often I get phone calls from usually very distressed relatives informing me of the death of a client, in almost frantic panic, asking if I know where the original Will is. Unless that person has chosen to store his/her document with my Company, I do not know where the Will has been stored. My Company does urge its clients to store their documents with us, but if not, makes a note of where the client intends to keep them and we put this on file. That sometimes helps, but only if the client has actually stored the documents where he/she said he/she intended!
Once again, it is all about Peace of Mind!