Creating an estate plan is the only way to ensure that your assets stay safe in probate. While every estate plan is different, most contain a last will and testament. This simple document allows testators to make critical decisions about their assets, who inherit them, and who should be named guardian of minor children.

However, even an ironclad will could be compromised by a common oversight. Far too many New Yorkers make the mistake of keeping their will in a place that is neither secure nor readily accessible.

You should never leave your legacy to chance. The Alatsas Law Firm has spent years helping Brooklyn families plan their estates and protect their assets. Our experienced team of attorneys can help you choose a safe location for your will or store it for you at our office.   Will kept in safe on shelf

The Importance of Keeping Your Will in a Safe Place

If you have already written a will, you are likely a step ahead of most Americans. According to some reports, nearly 70% of adults nationwide have yet to establish the foundation of an estate plan. Even many senior citizens put off estate planning for as long as possible. 

However, simply having a will does little to ensure that your legacy will be honored if it is not kept in a secure and safe place. Aretha Franklin, the recently deceased “Queen of Soul,” did not store her testament in an accessible location, and this caused a family conflict. A copy of her will was eventually found deep inside an old sofa, but by that point, her surviving children had been locked in a bitter, years-long dispute over their inheritances

Countless other people, many responsible and shrewd, have made similar mistakes, entrusting their estates to chance rather than taking the few necessary measures to put their wills in a safe place.

Finding the Right Place for Your Last Will and Testament

So long as your will complies with New York state law, it’s considered valid. You, too, could keep a copy on your sofa, a refrigerator, or even a utility shed. If the will can be found, it can be taken to court and used to initiate probate.

However, a will can only serve its intended purpose if the estate executor can locate an original copy. Unfortunately, estate documents placed in hidden spaces are often lost and never recovered.

You do not have to tread the line between safety and peace of mind. If you have yet to find a secure place to keep your will, consider placing it in:

A Fireproof Safe in Your Home

Many people keep their will in a fireproof safe inside their own homes. This is, for many, a convenient and cost-effective choice. 

However, if a testator does elect to store their will in a safe, they should not only have an executor appointed, but they should make sure that the executor has the combination or code to the safe.

The Surrogate’s Court

Your county Surrogate’s Court permits testators and property holders to file a copy of their will for a small fee. While this option entails a trip to the courthouse, it would preclude almost any assertion that you died without an estate plan. After all, a copy would be with the court, and your executor would only need to provide evidence of your death to retrieve a copy and open probate.

However, this approach can make amending a will somewhat more challenging. If, for instance, you ever need to change the terms of your will or replace it with another, you will have to pay another filing fee for every resubmitted copy.

Your Lawyer’s Office

The Alatsas Law Firm, like many other estate planning offices, has dedicated and secured storage space for wills and other testamentary documents. Keeping a copy of your will with us has several distinct advantages, including:

  • We will not charge you to store a copy of a will that we have written.
  • Your estate planning documents will be kept in a safe location and made inaccessible to anyone who is not authorized to view them.
  • Your attorney can use your will to initiate probate quickly or turn your testament over to an executor with minimal delay and without the need to upend your house. 

Even if your will is lost—in a fire, a flood, or other catastrophe—your lawyer will have a copy, and the court will likely accept a copy alongside an affidavit.

Ted Alatsas
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Trusted Brooklyn, New York Family Law Attorney helping NY residents with Elder Law and Asset Protection