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Where should I store my Will?

A cabinet of secure storage cabinets is one answer to, "Where should I store my Will?"

When it comes to where to keep your Will, there are a few different options to consider. (If you haven’t already made a Will, read Will writing solicitors near me for more information on solicitors, Will writers and free Wills in Bristol.)

The answer to, “Where should I store my Will?” has a few different answers:

  1. At your house
  2. At someone else’s house
  3. With a solicitor
  4. In a professional storage facility

Each of these has pros and cons, so let’s dive in and examine each option in turn.

1. Store your Will in your house

If you store your Will at home, the number one recommendation is to ensure it’s kept securely. A fire-proof safe is recommended for this.

Ideally you should keep it somewhere it’s unlikely to be damage by flood too. If your ground floor has ever been flooded, then keep it upstairs. Likewise, avoid keeping it near any leaky pipes!

But while you want to avoid outright destruction, there are many ways a Will can sustain minor damage:

  • Children scrawl on it
  • A dog chews it
  • It’s stained by damp or mould
  • Someone spills coffee on it

Any of these things might mean the Will is not accepted by the probate office.

Worst of all would be if the Will is lost. This could happen if you’re the victim of burglary, if it’s lost in a house move, or if you throw it away by accident.

If your Will is lost, you essentially have no Will at all. And if the Will cannot be found, the rules of intestacy would take effect.

But perhaps you made a Will previously that’s being stored somewhere else. If so then the old Will would take effect. This would undo all the effort you put into making a new one.

Ultimately, your executors have to know where the Will is and where to access it. If you store it in a safe, as recommended, tell them where the safe is and how to get into it. And be mindful of what else you store in the safe, just in case your relationship goes downhill!

2. Store your Will at someone else’s house

If your executors are your grown-up children, you might be tempted to let them keep your Wills. At least they’ll know where they are when the time comes. If they’re named in the Will, they should also have a good incentive to keep them safe.

The downside is that it’s now out of your hands. You’re relying on someone else to make good on their promise.

If your children are adults with children of their own, all of the pitfalls mentioned above come into play too, only more so.

Parents with young families are probably likely to move house more frequently. Some move abroad. Their children or pets might be curious and find the Wills.

For all these reasons, be very cautious about storing your Will at someone else’s house.

3. With a solicitor

Many people who have made Wills with solicitors are only given a copy of their Wills. The actual Will is stored by the solicitor who made them.

This has a couple of consequences, one of which is more serious than the other.

The main issue is what happens if the solicitor closes down, merges with another firm, or simply retires?

There are rules in place to ensure that a solicitor’s paperwork is transferred to another regulated firm. But if this happens, it could at the very least be a headache for your executors to track it down.

A lesser drawback is that the solicitors’ office will try to sell your loved ones their estate adminstration and probate services. This is, after all, why they offered to store your Will for free all of these years. They are hoping that they’ll get further (more lucrative) work later on.

Your executors can always say no, of course, but it might be a conversation they’d rather not have.

4. In a professional storage facility

There are various types of document storage facilities but we recommend one that specialises in legal documents.

You’ll typically pay a monthly fee for storage, which is usually about the same price as a cup of coffee.

You’ll be given a storage certificate to say where the Will is being held. And since the fee is taken by direct debit, it will appear on your bank statements. In the worst case scenario that the storage certificate is lost, there’s a paper trail showing where the Will is.

Be careful to ask about charges when you choose a storage company. Ask whether the monthly and annual cost is per document or, if you’re a couple, if it covers both Wills.

Find out if there is an additional charge for getting the Will out and also if the documents are insured against loss or damage. (Companies that store legal documents should be insured).

A low-cost option is to use the Government’s own low-cost storage service, provided by the HM Courts and Tribunals Service (HMCTS). You only have to pay a one-off fee when you send the Will – there’s no ongoing cost.

The downside of storing your Will with HM Courts and Tribunals Service (HMCTS) is that it’s slow to get a Will out again. As the Government website says: “It will take around 4 weeks to process your request and for the documents to be sent to you.” That’s much longer than most professional storage companies, which typically send documents within 24-48 hours.

Either way, document storage faciliites only make money from storage. So whilst there is a fee to pay, they will not try to upsell you on probate.

And crucially, your Will is safe and sound no matter what happens.

Summary

The answer to “Where should I store my Will?” has a few different answers, including keeping it at home or letting a solicitor store it. In my experience, much the best method for keeping a Will safe for when it’s needed is to use a dedicated secure storage service.

The information contained in these articles is for general interest purposes only. We take every precaution to ensure that the information is correct at the time of publishing but errors can occur. Given the changing nature of laws, rules and regulations, there may be omissions or inaccuracies in the information. Bristol Wills & Estate Planning Ltd is not responsible for any errors or omissions or for any results obtained from the use of this information. You should never rely on the information in these articles as a substitute for professional legal advice, whether from Bristol Wills & Estate Planning or any other legal service or professional.

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