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Safekeeping Your Original Will

Why Consider Safekeeping Your Original Will?

A Will sets out your final wishes as to how your estate assets shall be distributed after your die. Moreover, you can outline specific instructions for the care of any surviving underage or special children in your Will. Hence, as a very crucial document, safekeeping your original Will must be one of your priorities.

Leaving a valid Will

If someone close to you has recently passed away, then you may be nominated as the executor in the Will. Moreover, you may be required to make an application for probate to access the deceased person’s assets. 

The process of applying for probate is about ‘proving the Will’ in legal terms. First, the Supreme Court will require the executor(s) to submit the Will to the Probate Registry.  In doing so, it can be established that the Will has been properly executed and is a valid testamentary document. Then, the Court issues a Grant of Probate which formally authorises the executor(s) to administer the estate according to the rules. 

In addition, probate simultaneously makes the executor(s) personally responsible for the administration of the estate. However, to do this, you must first find the original Will if you do not already have it in your possession.

an image of a last will and testament document, safekeeping your original will

Finding an original Will

In most cases of close family members, if the deceased made a Will, they would have informed the executors that they have been nominated to be one of the executors in their Will. The deceased may have told you where the original Will is kept. If not, then try the following to locate the original Will:

Personal paperwork and records

Look though the deceased’s personal paperwork and files for the original or copy of the Will. If there is a copy, then it may contain information about the law firm that helped prepare the Will. Try to find any correspondence that the deceased had with a lawyer.

Deceased's Lawyer

Once confirmed, call the lawyer or law firm to see if they hold the original Will. If the law firm has the Will, they will only correspond with the executor named in the Will. However, if there is more than one (1) executor, then you must provide an authorisation letter from the other executors. 

The authorisation letter should state that you have permission to deal with the law firm on the other executors’ behalf. This is because of privacy laws and to ensure that an executor is not doing anything inappropriate with the Will.

But what if the law firm has no information about the Will? Or what if there is no evidence that the deceased had a lawyer?

Close friends

Ask close friends if they recall any conversations with the deceased about the deceased having written a Will.

Public trustee in your state

The Public Trustee in each state and territory offers a service whereby they will prepare your Will. However, in exchange for the service, the Public Trustee will be acting as the exclusive executor of your estate. Moreover, whilst the Will preparation is free, the public trustee charges a percentage of the estate to administer said estate.

This process is expensive and takes a very long time before the estate is settled. Moreover, it is only recommended in cases where the Will-maker has no close family. This also happens if the Public Trustee is acting as the Will-maker’s guardian during their life for one reason or another.

The public trustee will inform you if there is a Will. However, they will only provide information (at their discretion) if you are named as a beneficiary in the Will.

an image of a senior couple sitting on a park bench with their granddaughter practice safekeeping your original will

Safekeeping your Original Will

The original Will is an important document which should be stored in a secure place. Once you have executed your Will, tell your nominated executors where the original Will is kept. 

However, your Will is a strictly private document. Hence, you should not share the contents of the Will with the executors or any beneficiaries. 

You should also store a digitally certified copy of the Will in a secure online location. This is in case the original Will is lost from sudden or unexpected events like moving house, a fire or floods. Whilst it is not as good as the original, it is the next best thing.

Public Trustee Will Storage

The Public Trustee may offer a Will storage service where they are not acting as executor. However, where the service exists, there will be an annual fee charged, which may make it impractical to store your documents for long periods.

For your information, please here is the list of public trustees:

AussieLegal National Will Register

AussieLegal established a free Will storage facility many years ago called the National Wills Register. The facility aims to offer members of the public with free, secure storage of the original Wills.

Currently, AussieLegal is developing a comprehensive Will and other testamentary documents storage service. For this service, the documents are digitally scanned and assigned a QR code for added security. Hence, you can have a truly secure way for safekeeping your original Will.

The service will also be offered to law firms across Australia. Thus, providing their clients with access and control to the latest ultra-secure online document storage. Moreover, clients and their law firms will be able to upload and download documents for review, checking and updating as required.

an image of a senior couple with the husband kissing his wife at the cheek after safekeeping your original will

Need help with your legal matter?

AussieLegal offers affordable legal kits and paralegal services to help you have a valid Legal Will:

  • DIY Will, which enables you to write your own Will by yourself,
  • Legal Will, wherein your Will is prepared by one of our experienced in-house paralegals, and
  • Legal Will Plus, a lawyer-assisted fixed-fee service which includes advice from an estate planning lawyer. 

 

AussieLegal itself is not a law firm and we are not permitted to provide legal advice. However, we are working under a collaborative arrangement with a panel of independent law firms across Australia. Thus, allowing us to help our clients with more complex legal tasks that require formal legal advice.

Need more options? Call us on 1300 728 200 to discuss your situation with one of our consultants.

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