Keeping Track of Your Will

Once you’ve taken the step to create a will and get your estate plan in order, you need to figure out what to do with the will itself. It is important to keep track of the location of your current will as well as any old wills.

Where to keep a will
The safest place to keep the original copy of your will is in a bank safe deposit box. If you keep the will at home, even if it is in a safe–you run the risk of it being stolen or being destroyed in a fire. Some attorneys may keep the original copy of the will. But if you leave the will with your attorney, make sure the attorney receives updated contact information from you when you move. That way if the attorney moves offices or retires, he or she will know where to find you and you will know where your will is.

You may want to keep a copy of your will at home with your other financial documents. It is usually not a good idea to give a copy to family members or friends because you may want to change the distributions at some point and may need the will back.

What do you do with an old will?
Once you have written a new will, your inclination may be to destroy the old will, but this may not be a good idea. If, for some reason, your new will is invalidated, the court may be willing to reinstate an old will rather than allowing your estate to pass intestate (according to state law). It is likely that your old will adheres more closely to your wishes than an intestate distribution. If the will is destroyed, it cannot be reinstated.

Making changes to a will
If you want to make changes to a will, do not mark up the will by hand, even if you have only small changes to make. A court could take a marked-up will as a sign that you intended to revoke the will. If you want to make a change, contact an attorney who can draft an amendment to the will (called a codicil).

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