You’ve done the right thing. You’ve gone to an estate planning or elder law lawyer and had your estate planning documents prepared, ie. your Last Will and Testament, Financial Power of Attorney, Health Care Power of Attorney, etc. Now what do you do with your Last Will and Testament?
In Ohio, original Wills are very important. That is because if an original Will is lost, the law presumes that it was lost or destroyed on purpose. To admit a lost Will, the burden is on the individual seeking to admit the lost Will that it was executed in accordance with the law, what the contents of the Will were, and that no person has good evidence that the Will was revoked. In short, it is a process that is best avoided by ensuring that your original Will can be located upon your death.
A Will is best kept in a fireproof safe in your home or another safe place. It is important that your loved ones know where it is located and how to access it in the event it is needed (for example, how to get in the home and where the key is kept for the safe). If the Will can’t be located upon your death, it hasn’t served its purpose.
If, however, you don’t have loved ones nearby or that you can trust, you may wish to consider putting your original Will on deposit with the county probate court where you reside. For a nominal fee, the court will store your Will, confidentially, until your death.
A Will should not be kept in a safety deposit box. If the safety deposit box is only titled in your name, then upon your death, no one can access the safety deposit box without authority from the court. That authority is granted in your Will. A person could be appointed administrator which requires a bond, more filings and expense. But, again that situation is best avoided.
You may wish to refrain from giving copies out to loved ones if you think there’s any chance you will change your mind in the future. A Will can always be changed or revoked and it is best not to have revoked Wills out in circulation. It can promote a Will contest and also create hard feelings if a friend or relative was a beneficiary or executor and then not.
A Will need not be filed anywhere during your lifetime to be valid. In the event that you own probate property when you pass away, then the Will would need to be filed or probated with probate court.
For more information on the Last Will and Testament and other Estate Planning Documents and their storage and use, contact a Cleveland estate planning lawyer.