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Are your will and estate documents in a safe place?

Will and Estate DocumentsOur will and estate lawyers will tell you that most people understand the importance of documenting a comprehensive will to outline their final wishes.  This will all come to nought however if the will cannot be found when it is needed.

Recently a couple called into our Adelaide office.  They had been very diligent in making changes to their will at important milestones in their lives.  They had made a new will when newly married and again when their first child was born.  Now thirty years later they were new Grandparents and joyfully entering into a retired life.   They had expected to return to the firm that had held their original wills to make updates reflecting their current life circumstances.

Copies of their wills had been carefully kept at home with relevant contact details and the business cards of the firm involved.   It was soon discovered that the firm was no longer in business.  A number of retirements and business mergers had also taken place during the intervening years and the end result was that the couple were unable to locate their original wills.  In these circumstances the couple were able to make their new wills but it would have been a very different story if one of them had died.  If a will cannot be found at the time of death it is the same as if that person has not documented a will and will be deemed to have died intestate.

There is peace of mind in making sure that your estate documents (will, enduring power of attorney and advance care) carefully document your final wishes and that you have chosen trusted executors and decision makers to carry out these wishes.  Storing your will safely and making sure your executors know where to find it will prevent unnecessary stress on them and other family members when it is required.

Tips for storing your will and estate documents

–          Choose a safe place for your will and estate documents.  It is generally accepted that the best place to store your original will is at your will and estate lawyer’s office.  At Williams Barristers and Solicitors we are happy to store your documents in our large fire rated safe as part of our service.  We will also provide certified copies at the time of drafting.

–          Tell your executors and decision makers where you have stored your will and estate documents as it is important that they can be found quickly when needed.  This is best done in writing so they do not have to rely on memory given it may be many years before the documents are needed.

–          It is not advisable to store your will and estate documents in a safety deposit box at a bank.  The banks will usually require a certified copy or a grant of probate before providing access.

–          Storing your original will document at home is not usually a good option.  It is too easy for it to be damaged, lost or inaccessible when needed.  There are very strict rules related to original wills and any damage or markings can raise questions.  For example, attaching other documents with paperclips, staples, rust marks, fold or tears may raise questions as to whether parts of the document are missing.  This creates additional expense as your will and estate lawyers will need to undertake further work in verifying the will.

–          Williams will and estate lawyers use the Wills Register managed by the Law Society of South Australia.  The register is a secure centralised register that allows law firms and legal practitioners to register clients wills and to search for wills.  The register can only be accessed by legal practitioners.

The Williams Barristers and Solicitors Team can assist you with any of your estate needs.  Our highly-skilled and personable will and estate lawyers are some of the best in Adelaide.   Find out more about our services, or contact us today 08 84519040.

Further Information

Testamentary Capacity and Statutory Wills

Wills and Probate; 5 Common Questions

Wills and Estate Planning

When Can I Challenge a Will?


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