I read a great post yesterday on militarymoneymight.com . It’s a site that offers financial advice for the military, but they make one great recommendation regarding Will planning that many others miss. The single most frequent question we receive from people who are not our clients is “I know my mum/dad/brother/wife, had a Will, but nobody can find it, do you know where it might be?”
It’s not a completely ridiculous question, because many people think that there is a central registry for Wills somewhere. There is a notion that once a Will is written, it is stored somewhere with the authorities to be retrieved at the appropriate time. Unfortunately this is not the case.
In Canada, some Provinces like BC have a registry of locations of Wills. For $17 you can record the location of the Will (not the Will itself) with the BC Vital Statistics Agency. This was obviously set up to deal with the same question that we deal with on a too frequent basis here at LegalWills. There are even independent businesses that have been set up to offer the same service, like the one at WillsIndex.com. Again, they offer a service to store the location of your Will (not the Will itself).
We have to make a distinction here between the Wills of people who have died and the Wills of the living. Once a person dies the Will is often probated and filed with the courts. That is why genealogists are able to research the archives and find the Wills of their ancestors. But this is very different to registering a Will while you are still alive. Your Last Will and Testament should be reviewed and updated on a regular basis; we discussed in a previous blog entry when it makes sense to update your Will. And each time the Will is updated, a new document should be created and the old one destroyed. So even if the facility existed, registering the document with the government probably wouldn’t make sense.
The most important message from this blog entry is make sure that your Executor knows where your Will is located. Whether you have prepared your own Will, or used a lawyer who has filed your Will in their archives, your Executor still needs to know where to go to access the document. Whether you store your document in a vault at the bank or in your bedside table at home, let your Executor know where the document can be found.
Today, somebody somewhere will be dealing with the loss of a family member and they will be trying to locate a Will. They may even carry out some searches on the internet and find LegalWills and then give us a call out of desperation. If you have taken the time to prepare a Will, let your Executor (and alternate Executor) know where you are keeping it.