The only thing worse than dying without a will is dying with a
will which cannot be located.
The location of your original will is important. There is only
one original will – the one that is signed by the
willmaker and the witnesses. This original will should be safely
guarded. If the original cannot be found, the law will
presume that the willmaker intended to revoke the will. If an
original will is destroyed in circumstances that clearly do not
reflect the intention by the willmaker to revoke the will, a copy
of the will may be admitted to Probate.
Here are some options for where to keep your will:
(1) At Home, In a Safe
Some willmakers prefer to keep their wills at home.
Keeping your will at home has the some benefits: it is a no-cost
option, and your original will is easily accessible in case you
wish to change it in a rush.
However, if you choose to keep your will at home, be sure to
consider the risks. Your will could be damaged or destroyed
in a fire or flood. Your will could be accidentally or
intentionally destroyed by someone other than you. Your will may be
in an unknown location, making it hard for your family to deal with
(2) Safety Deposit Box
Most financial institutions have safety deposit boxes in which
you could keep your will. The benefit of keeping the will in a
safety deposit box is that the original may only be retrieved by
the Executor upon the death of the willmaker. This should ensure
that family members will have access to the copy, while protecting
the original from alteration, destruction or removal.
Safety deposit boxes have the added benefit of being housed in a
more secure setting than the home and provide greater protection
against destruction of the will in the event of a disaster.
Keeping the will in a safety deposit box at the financial
institution where the willmaker holds accounts is preferable
because the willmaker's financial accounts are invariably
examined upon death in order to determine the extent of the Estate.
During such preliminary investigations the will can be retrieved by
any party named as Executor in the will. Safety deposit boxes are
also preferable because Banks have systems specifically designed
for the long term storage of documents and goods, unlike law
(3) At your Lawyer's Office
lawyer may be able to store your Will at their office. Not all
lawyers have the facilities to keep your original will. While these
wills are kept in a secure safe, it is preferable to both the
willmaker and their lawyer to keep the original in the
willmaker's home or in a safety deposit box.
While storing the will at a law firm provides a degree of
security, i.e. the will is physically protected in a safe and
outside parties other than the willmaker may not have access,
absent the willmaker's permission, law firms often end up with
large volumes of wills going back decades. This provides
administrative problems for the law firms and the willmaker
(a) the law firm may not survive the willmaker; or
(b) the drafting solicitor may not survive the willmaker; or
(c) the drafting solicitor may not be employed by the Firm at
the time of the willmaker's death; or
(d) the willmaker may die without revealing to anyone that the
Firm held a copy of the Will.1
All of these events could lead to the will being misplaced or
unavailable upon the death of the willmaker, creating unnecessary
administrative hassle for the Executor(s) and Beneficiaries of the
Estate, possibly even resulting in intestacy.
1. If a client insists on storing their will with us we
recommend that the client record the location of their will with
the BC Vital Statistics Wills Notice Registry to avoid the problem
discussed in (d) above.
The content of this article is intended to provide a general
guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought
about your specific circumstances.
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On March 31, 2014, BC's new Wills, Estates and Succession Act1 ("WESA") will come into force. WESA introduces new protections for beneficiaries of estates that are in danger of being disputed or deemed ineffective by a court.
It is not uncommon for parents to provide monetary gifts to their adult children. Parents may wish to help their child with a down payment on a property, or help pay out their child's existing mortgage.
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