Finding the will saved the day

Sibling never wanted mother’s will found so she’d get a bigger inheritance

Q: My mother’s original will was kept in her attorney’s office. At some time after she signed it, her estate attorney died.

My sister hoped our mother died without a will so that she would get half of what my mother owned. My elder law attorney was able to find my mother’s will from my mom’s original attorney’s law partner. I was lucky they had it as the will gave me most of my mother’s estate. Otherwise, we would have had to have shared things equally.

I got the bigger slice of the inheritance because I lived with her for 25 years. Since most people store their wills at home, I thought I’d mention my experience. Apparently, my mom’s old files ended up in a repository of documents and their partner was able to retrieve the will from that place. I thought you might like to know about my experience.

Revocable and Irrevocable Trusts

A: What a great warning for our readers. You’ve done a lot of good by sharing your story.

When people have an attorney draw up a will, they either leave the original with the attorney or take it with them. If they take it, it is often placed with other important papers in their home. Sometimes they put it in a safe deposit box.

Safe deposit boxes are typically the worst choice. An executor or heir won’t be able to get into the safe deposit box unless they are authorized and have a key to the box. Otherwise, the bank requires court approval to grant access. So, this option often ends up being the worst possible place to leave a will.

Signing Legal Documents

Leaving the will with important papers in your home may be a better option. But, if you’re the only person who knows where the document is, your executor or heirs may not find it when the time comes.

That’s why so many people leave their will with the attorney who drafted it. But your executor and heirs need to know the name and contact information for the attorney you used to set up the will.

The most important thing is let your loved ones know where you keep your important papers. If you’ve used an attorney to create the will and the attorney keeps the original, you should retain a copy with the attorney’s contact information.

Whatever you do, make sure your loved ones know where to find your important documents if something should happen to you. They should also have sufficient information about the documents to know what you want them to do.

Will, Living Trust and Power of Attorney: Which Do I Need?

For example, if you find it necessary to put the documents in a home safe, make sure they know how to get into the safe. If you put them in a safe deposit box, make sure they have the authority and where to find the safe deposit key. And, if the attorney has your will, make sure everybody knows who to call when something happens.

The same goes for other important documents such as a power of attorney for health care, power of attorney for financial matters, and a living will to tell people what kind of care you want should you be unable to speak for yourself. If you have prepaid for a funeral, be sure to leave a record of your funeral arrangements with your will and other important papers.

As our reader shared, her mother chose not to divide assets equally. Without the will, that’s what would have happened. Which is not what her mother intended.

Sign up for Ilyce’s Free Newsletter: Love, Money + Real Estate

©2024 by Ilyce Glink and Samuel J. Tamkin. Distributed by Tribune Content Agency. A1644