If you die without a will in the state of Missouri, the courts gain control over the administration of your estate. A Last Will and Testament avoids state control of your assets, and provides an opportunity to make important decisions regarding guardianship of your children, selection of beneficiaries, selection of an Executor, burial or cremation wishes and other vital issues.
Given the importance of the will and your commitment to protecting your assets for the future, it makes sense to consider how to store your will for safekeeping.
Courts prefer to have the original will when probate begins, accepting copies only under certain conditions. Therefore, the goals of will storage are to keep the document safe, and to provide access after you pass away.
Let’s look at the options.
Three Storage Options for Your Will
For peace of mind and reference purposes, you may want to keep your will at your home or office. But merely tossing it into your file cabinet won’t do. Because your aim is to protect your will from being lost, stolen, or damaged, a fireproof safe is an excellent choice for will storage. If this will is a copy, include instructions as to the location of the original will. Your spouse or a trusted family member should know how to access your safe by key or combination. You may also share this information with your attorney.
In Missouri, a bank safety deposit box is a viable storage option. Missouri permits joint ownership of a safety deposit box, with no presumption of the ownership of its contents. If you decide to store your original will in a safety deposit box, make sure your executor and beneficiaries know the location, and the executor has been granted legal authority to take possession of the will upon your death. One legally efficient method is to title the safety deposit box in the name of a trust, giving the successor trustee access after you pass away. This is but one of the nuances of probate law that your Missouri estate planning attorney is qualified to help you sort out.
Finally, you may wish to ask your attorney to safeguard your original will if a good working relationship exists, and/or you plan to retain the same attorney or firm for the remainder of your life. Your executor and your family members should be aware of the name and location of the firm in possession of your will. This is especially important where years may go by in between conversations with your attorney. Your attorney is obligated to keep your will confidential, and may or may not charge a storage fee.
Have questions about wills, trusts and estate planning in St. Louis, Missouri? We can help.