One of the most common questions we get asked by our clients is: "Where should I store my will?" It's an essential query, showing an understanding of the critical role a will plays in securing your legacy. Once you've completed your estate planning process, including drafting a will, it's crucial to ensure it's kept safe and easily accessible when needed.
Your will is a valuable document. Like any precious possession, it needs to be stored securely and protected from potential damage from fire, water, or theft. But remember, safety doesn't only mean locking it away where no one can find it. Accessibility to the right people, when required, is just as important.
Choosing the Right Storage Option
A common choice for many people is a safe deposit box at the bank. It's a secure option, indeed, but it may come with some potential pitfalls. One significant concern about storing a will in a safe deposit box is access. If you choose this route, you must ensure that someone else - a trusted person who will likely act as the executor of your will - can access the box when necessary. They must be authorized on the bank's signature card and know exactly where to locate your will. And, you have to keep track of the location of the safe box, especially in Georgia where banks are gobbled up by other banks, branches close and safe contents are moved from here to there in regular fashion.
Some people opt for a home safe or lockbox as it provides a balance between security and accessibility. This is a perfectly fine choice, provided the safe is fireproof and water-resistant. Regardless of the chosen method, remember that it's important to let the necessary parties know where your will is stored.
Utilizing Probate Court Services
Depositing your original will with your local probate court in Georgia is a practical yet often overlooked solution. Many people aren't aware that this service exists, but it can be an excellent way to ensure the safety and security of your will.
The Georgia probate court system provides an option for individuals to store their original will for a nominal fee, generally in a fireproof filing system held by the court. This storage method offers considerable peace of mind, considering the court handles these important legal documents daily and understands their value and importance. However, before selecting this option, it's worth inquiring about the court's specific storage and protection methods. Understand what steps they take to ensure documents remain secure and are protected from potential damage. Ask questions like: "What safety measures do you have in place?" and "How do you protect documents from potential hazards like fire or flooding?"
Additionally, inquire about the process that would follow your passing. Who can retrieve the will, and what proof would they need to provide? Typically, the court may allow the executor named in the will or an attorney acting on behalf of the deceased's estate to retrieve a copy of the will to be used for preparing the petition to admit the will to probate. However, protocols can vary, and it's best to be well-informed in advance.
This service's key advantage is its perfect balance of security and accessibility. Unlike a bank safe deposit box or personal safe, the court's storage system ensures your will can be accessed when needed without delay or unnecessary complications. The will stays confidential until death, after which it is opened and filed by the court, ensuring a smooth transition into the probate process.
Places to Avoid When Storing Your Will
While we've discussed the advisable places to store your will, it's equally important to highlight some places that you should avoid. First and foremost, do not leave your will in places prone to damage such as attics or basements, where it can be easily affected by water leaks, mold, fire, or pests. It's also best to avoid storing your will on your computer or other digital media as your only copy. While having a digital copy as a backup can be useful, the original signed document is what holds legal weight in court. Finally, try to avoid locations that are difficult for others to access after your demise. This could include your personal safe, which only you can open, or obscure locations in your home. The key is to strike a balance between safety and accessibility, ensuring your will is both secure and accessible to the right people when necessary.
Safe, Secure, and Accessible
In conclusion, when thinking about where to store your will, prioritize safety, security, and accessibility. Ensure it's safe from damage and that the appropriate parties know where it is and how to access it when the time comes.
Peach State Wills & Trusts is Here to Help
Should you have any questions about estate planning or need assistance with your will or other planning documents, we at Peach State Wills & Trusts are here to help. Our dedication lies in providing you with a friendly, approachable, and professional service, and we are just a call away. Contact us at 678-344-5342 to learn how to plan for your future in Georgia today.
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