One question I hear from clients all the time: After we sign the Will , where should we keep it?
Before we answer that question, let’s ask another, related question: What if your loved ones can’t find your Will?
Consider the matter of famed Olympic runner, Florence Griffith-Joyner , the fastest woman in history. In 1998, at the age of 38, Ms. Joyner passed away in her sleep when she suffocated after an epileptic seizure .
After her death, her grief-stricken husband, Al Joyner was unable to find the original Will executed by his wife. By California law, Mr. Joyner was required to file the original document within 30 days of her death. Because he could not find it—he could not file it.
As a result, Mr. Joyner and the mother of Ms. Joyner engaged in estate litigation for four years following her death.
Even if you take the time and effort to create estate planning documents—if the documents cannot be found and filed, you are considered to have died intestate . This means your assets are divided according to state probate law—even if your family members know you put your wishes on paper.
What if you only have copies of your Will? In New Jersey, you can only probate an original version of your Will. If you only have copies, you’ll have to file a motion with the Court, which can often be costly and extremely time-consuming.
Back to our first question, where should you store your Will? Consider these suggestions for preserving your documents—in order to preserve your wishes:
Regardless of where you store your Will, tell loved ones where you placed it. Give a copy to your executor and leave written instructions indicating where the original can be located.