What Happens if I Lose My Will?
February 26th, 2018
While most individuals do a fairly good job of keeping their wills and legal documents in a secure place, not everyone is quite so organized. People also commonly store wills and other important papers in places that might be less than secure, such as shoeboxes or a dresser drawer. As a result, it is not uncommon for an individual to lose his or her original will. Other situations, such as moving to a new house, fire, theft, and flooding also can result in the loss of a will. Fortunately, you do have options if you have lost your will.
When a person passes away, his or her original will normally is filed in the probate court of the county in which the person resided. This step is necessary to open an estate, which will allow your surviving heirs to distribute assets and pay debts according to your will. If no one can find your original will, however, all is not necessarily lost. In some cases, the probate court will allow a copy of your will to be substituted for the original, if necessary, but this practice can vary from one probate court to another. If your family members only have a copy of your will, rather than the original, and formal probate is necessary, the petition to admit the copy of the will to probate must contain a statement that the original will is lost, destroyed, or otherwise unavailable.
In this situation, your heirs will have to prove that the original will did exist, usually by providing the court with a copy of the will, and that the original will was accidentally lost or destroyed. There is also a rebuttable presumption that if a person intentionally destroyed the will, then he or she meant to revoke it. Again, your heirs must prove that you didn’t intentionally destroy your will as a means of revoking it altogether. If your family is in this situation, the attorney who prepared your will keeps a copy of the will on file, so your loved ones can get a copy of your will from the attorney.
If you truly cannot find your original will or know that it has been destroyed, perhaps the best solution is to contact the attorney who prepared your will and execute a new original will. This will allow you to make any necessary changes since you executed your last will; executing a new will is likely to save your family members a great deal of time and trouble.
If you want to have a comprehensive plan in place for the future to protect yourself and your family, our Washington estate planning attorneys can guide you through every step of the process. We are here to answer your questions, both now and in the future, about all aspects of the estate planning process. At Legacy Law Center, we have represented the interests of countless individuals throughout the estate planning process. Contact our office and set up an appointment with one of our experienced elder law attorneys today.