In South Carolina, a person’s Will cannot be filed until after they have died. It is no longer a common practice for an attorney to keep a client’s original Will in their office. This can often lead to a lot of confusion if family members know the decedent had a Will but don’t know where to locate it. It can lead to even more confusion if the Will is located significantly after the estate is opened when the presumption was that one didn’t exist.
It is the client’s responsibility to keep and protect their original Will. There is no perfect solution for storing a Will because everyone’s situation is different. Some people are comfortable with others seeing their intentions, while others may consider this to be a very private document not to be viewed until after death.
You should always keep your original Will in a safe, secure place with your other important documents. Here are some important things to consider:
Fireproof Box or Safe
Placing your documents in a fireproof container in your home may be the best option. If you choose this option, make sure that at least one other person (preferably your personal representative) has the combination or key so that your documents can be accessed after your death.
It is helpful if this person is someone who does not live in the household, as members of the same household can often pass in a simultaneous accident. It is also important that someone who will likely disagree with the contents of your Will (for example a child who may be disinherited) does not have access, as they could potentially destroy the document after your death.
Safe Deposit Box
A safe deposit box is definitely secure, but it is important that you make arrangements for access after your death. For example, the person that is going to serve as your personal representative should be listed as someone with permission to access the box after your death or be provided a key.
It is equally important that others know this is where your Will is located. Without access or knowledge, a Will can be left ignored in a safe deposit box while the estate is probated.
Some people choose to give the original Will to their personal representatives for safekeeping. If you are not comfortable doing this, consider giving them a copy with written directions describing the location of the original. You should also include any specific instructions they will need to obtain the Will.
Secure Your Will, Don’t Hide It
However you decide to store your original Will, be sure it is secure but not hidden. A Will that cannot be found cannot express your wishes, and your family will need to present your original Will to the Probate Court. There are ways a copy of a Will can be accepted by the Probate Court, but they will add time and expense to the procedure and are best avoided. Keep your original Will safe for the sake of your heirs.
To speak to an experienced estate planning lawyer at PMC Law Firm about your important legal matters, please give us a call today at (800) 914-0620 to set up your consultation.