Where To Keep Your Will: Conclusion

There are other options to the safe in the spare bedroom or den. Keeping your will in your safe deposit box at your bank is the option I usually recommend, so long as no one has access to the box who could benefit by a destruction of the will. I recommend that you drive immediately from the lawyer’s office to the bank to put your freshly signed will into your safe deposit box.

In Pennsylvania, a decedent’s safe deposit box can be searched, in the presence of two bank officers, for a will; and a will and cemetery deed can be removed. This is so even if no one else’s name is “on the box,” meaning that no one is designated as deputy or attorney-in-fact on the card maintained by the bank. Also, when the box is searched after death, an original will can only be turned over to the named executor, which provides some additional safeguards.
If the will names a bank or trust company as executor and/or trustee, often the bank will offer safe-keeping services and hold the original document. This is also a good solution to the problem of where to keep the original will.

Some folks let the lawyer who wrote the will hold it in “safe-keeping” for them. This is usually a service provided by law firms at no charge. Sometimes the law firm’s motivation for offering the safe-keeping service is to make sure that the family has to come to that law firm to retrieve the original will and thus that firm gets first crack at the business of settling the estate. In fact, some lawyers just assume that is the case, taking over the estate settlement, and the executor and family members don’t even realize that they have a choice.

Despite the law firm’s motivation for offering to hold your will, this could provide the needed safety. It is a good option so long as the executor and family members understand that the will is being held in safe-keeping and that the executor is free to interview other law firms and make an informed decision about what lawyer or law firm is going to be attorney for the estate. This gives the executor the opportunity to compare fees and the expertise of other lawyers before making a decision.

Enjoy your week