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Horizon Elder Law & Estate Planning Blog

Saturday, November 11, 2017

Protecting Your Original Estate Planning Documents

What will happen if my original will is destroyed?

The recent catastrophic fires in California and record flooding in Texas and Florida call attention to the importance of preserving our original documents.  If your original will is destroyed by a natural disaster, it could have implications for your estate plan and your heirs.  Our San Ramon, California wills and trusts attorneys at Horizon Elder Law & Estate Planning, Inc., discuss how you can protect your original will and what could happen if it is lost or destroyed below.  

Opening Probate With the Original Will

To commence probate proceedings after a death, the original will must be filed in court in California.  When the original will is missing, whether it has been lost or destroyed due to a fire or other natural disaster, it can become difficult to open probate.  In fact, a presumption exists that if the will was last in the possession of the competent deceased testator, then the missing will was revoked by the testator.  

There are ways to overcome the presumption that the missing will was revoked.  If you can establish the terms of the missing will, such as through a copy or duplicate original, then you may be able to initiate probate with the terms of the original will in place.  Any family members dealing with a destroyed original will should consult with a probate attorney for assistance.  

Protecting Your Original Will

To prevent potential complications after your death, it is important that you take some simple precautions to protect your original estate planning documents.  You should consider keeping your original will in a bank safe deposit box.  Be sure that you name a co-owner or co-signatory and provide them with a key to the box.  Your named co-owner should be instructed to retrieve the will and bring the original will to the superior court in the country where you lived.  A copy of the will must be left within the safe deposit box.

Another option is to keep the original will with your attorney for safekeeping.  If you must keep your will in your home, be sure that it is kept in a fireproof container in a safe location and that at least one family member or other trusted person is aware of where it is and how to access it.  


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