top of page
  • Northern Virginia Trusts & Estates

How To Keep Your Will Protected And Accessible

Planning for after death issues is never easy, but knowing your loved ones have clear guidelines when it comes to your wishes, makes the most important decision and estate planning process easier to walk through.

Age is not a factor. You are never too young or too old to create and or change your will. You will need to set up an appointment with an estate planner to ensure the accuracy and safety of your assets. Typically the sooner the better.

If you or a loved one should unexpectedly die, would you know where their will is located?

We hope your answer is DEFINITELY becasue an original will that cannot be found is like the deceased having no will at all. The hard work in drafting one so that your loved ones are cared for may be for nothing.

Here are 3 tips to help you keep your will safe and always accessible.

Avoid The Scavenger Hunt

Recently a family from northern Virginia suddenly lost a family member after weeks spent battling Covid-19. After the fog of shock and the grief started to fade, it was time for them to start thinking about the after-death planning documents, inheritance and instructions. The only problem was they could not find them. Where could they be?

Here are the facts that what we know:

  1. The family was told by the deceased there was a will

  2. The will had been recently updated and seen by their partner (not married)

  3. The family was assured it was current

  4. The family could not find any version of the document

  5. The Executor was never told where the will was located but it was assumed to be in the deceased’s safe

  6. Searched everywhere they knew to look and then some

A good first step for anyone who is trying to locate a will is to begin looking, everywhere. Here is where the family searched:

  1. Safe deposit box

  2. Employer

  3. Bank

  4. Desk drawers

  5. Filing cabinets

  6. Safe

  7. Garage

  8. Under the mattress

  9. Closets

  10. Car trunks and glove compartments

  11. Inside of books

  12. Deep freezer

  13. Hunting camp

It is possible the deceased had a safe deposit box but the family did not know for certain and did not know the location. Many people keep these documents in a safety deposit box. If you find yourself in this family’s situation and don’t know where the box is located, you might think of how to find the key.

But even if you find the key to the box it isn’t enough. You must be assigned as a signer on the account to access the box.  Without that; no one will be able to get in the box. If all measures fail and you end up empty handed you can check with the Probate Court in the county of the state where the decedent lived. If  the will was filed, it will likely be available to the public for viewing and or purchase.

This scattered scavenger life is too much to handle when you are in mourning. Have you ever noticed as humans when we can’t find something we become stressed and anxious? The more we search, and the longer it takes, the more anxious we get. Don’t let this happen to you and your family. Make a plan.

Copies Are Not Good Enough

It is a bit of a myth that a copy of a signed will is proof enough to proceed with the reading of the will and execution. The executor and members who are part of the inheritance may have copies of your will, but that’s not enough to move forward.

One reason why a copy is not enough is that the will could have been changed since the copy was given out. The accuracy needs to be checked against the original signed documents.

It can become overwhelming, time consuming, and frustrating to try to figure out where to go from here if all you have are copies.

In order to avoid the copy failing, you need to let the following people know the exact location of all original planning documents and how they are to access them.

  1. Your state and trust attorney

  2. Designated executor

  3. Trustee

  4. Trusted individuals

If you do plan on using a safety deposit box or home safe for your original documents you must do 2 things:

  1. Make sure to transfer ownership of the box to your living trust (so that your successor trustee has access to the box after your death without the need for a court order).

  2. If it’s in a fireproof safe in your house, make sure you let family members know where to find the combination (or key) if you are no longer around.

The tips mentioned above will go a long way to help keep you from finding yourself in a situation where it is lost.

To really be 100% certain that everything is accurate and correct, the very first step should be to meet with an estate planner to talk about your specific needs and situation.

Make A Plan & Clearly State Your Wishes.

Your estate planner will meet with you and guide you through the navigation and planning process. They will make sure all your affairs are in order and that there is no way you or a family member will ever lose documents or access to them.

There are several areas or labels that fall under the umbrella of estate planning. You will probably talk about the following:

  1. Estate planning

  2. Estate, probate, an trust administration

  3. Asset protection

  4. Prenuptial and Postnuptial agreements

  5. Trusts

  6. Wills

  7. Power Of Attorney

The best gift you can give when you leave this earth is a well written, clear road map with your specific wishes and step by step instructions on how each item should be carried out.

If you follow the 3 tips above. you should never lose, wonder, or worry about where your estate planning documents are like our family above who learned the hard way.

Connect With Us To Learn More

Understandably, estate planning can be difficult to navigate on your own. We are your go to Estate Planning professionals in Virginia. When you need help securing your family’s future, our dedicated firm is here for you.

To schedule a consultation, call our office at 703-938-3510 today. You can also fill out our contact form online.

32 views0 comments

Recent Posts

See All

How Do You Contest a Will in Virginia?

Updated April 2022 In the Commonwealth of Virginia, only “interested parties” can contest the validity of a will.  An interested party (or interested person) is any individual that has the standing to


bottom of page