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The Best Place to Keep Your Will

Posted by Lanre J. Abiola | Aug 18, 2023

When you choose not to have an attorney draft your will and/or create a trust, there may be conflict between your heirs/beneficiaries. For instance, Aretha Franklin made the right choice in drafting her last will and testament, but she made a mistake by not properly keeping her last will and testament in a secure place where it would be easily found. See Michelle Singletary, Aretha Franklin's will was in her couch. Here is where to keep yours. Although having a will is important, it is also important for you to know how to keep your will safe.

In Aretha's case, three of her sons battled in court over her handwritten wills, one of which, dated and signed in 2014, was found under her couch cushions. Id. Another, signed and dated in 2010, was found in a locked cabinet. Id. A jury recently found that her last will, kept in the couch, is a valid one. Id.

To avoid Aretha's mistake, here are a few points about the best places to keep your will.

Best Places to Keep Your Will

If you have a will, keep it in a secure place where it will be easily found. For example, you can create a duplicate of the original will: one for you to keep at home and the other for your estate planning attorney. If you follow this advice, making sure that your family knows your estate planning attorney's name is paramount. 

Additionally, to make things easier for your family, include a letter in a binder with a list of important information. The letter should include instructions on assets, names and contact information for the professionals that your family needs to know, including the estate planning attorney that drafted your last will and testament. Further, you should update your estate planning documents periodically, which should be done every three to five years, by making sure that your last will and testament reflects these updates. Your estate planning attorney will add a proviso that the most recent will supplants previous versions. 

Moreover, in some jurisdictions, including Milwaukee County, Wisconsin, you can store your last will with the court. You will give your court a sealed will for a one-time fee. The will can be released to you or the person you designate in writing and witnessed by two additional persons other than the person withdrawing the will. Also, note that your will becomes a public document after you die as part of the probate court-supervised process in Wisconsin if you don't have a living trust and your net asset value is at least $50,000.

Don't put your will in your bank's safe deposit box. Putting your will in your bank's safe deposit box will likely complicate things because the bank will seal the box upon your passing, and your executor may need a copy of your will and a court order to open the box. If you prefer putting your will in your safe deposit box, you probably should add your executor as a co-owner of the safe deposit box and make sure that the person has a copy of the key.

If you don't have a will, then you are risking intestacy, which is the state of dying without a will, and the state's intestacy rules will determine who will inherit your estate upon your passing. Also, dying intestate will likely not prevent conflict between your heirs. 

Accordingly, having an attorney draft your will and properly keeping your last will and testament in a secure place where your family/executor will easily find it will likely avert conflict between your heirs.

To learn more about updating or creating a new will, contact Prestige Law Office. The firm handles estate planning for Wauwatosa, Pewaukee, Brookfield, Waukesha, Kenosha, Racine, Whitefish Bay, and the greater Milwaukee area. Contact the firm at 414-459-1632 to get started and to schedule a consultation.

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About the Author

Lanre J. Abiola

Mr. Lanre Abiola founded Prestige Law Office, LLC, with the objective of providing individuals, entrepreneurs, and small and mid-sized businesses with high-quality, cost-effective legal services to achieve the best possible result for clients at a fair cost. Mr. Abiola believes in vigorous advocacy on clients' behalf.

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