There’s no overstating the importance of making a will. It’s critical to ensuring a smooth transition of assets to desired parties, and if not done, can create a great deal of stress after the already stressful event of losing a loved one.
And while it’s important that a will is made, it’s also important that it’s stored properly. If the will can’t be found, it simply can’t be acted upon. That’s why we’ve put together these tips on storing wills.
Make sure it's signed
There are lots of ways to make a will, including will kits, handwritten wills, and online will-making sites like Willful, Legal Wills, and Epilogue.
If you're making a will without a lawyer, you need to make sure that it is executed properly. This means printing it out and signing it in the presence of two witnesses. If your will isn't signed or if it's simply saved as a file on your computer, it won't be considered valid.
Lately there has been a push to allow for fully digital wills under Canadian law.
Store your will with care
When you’re looking for a place to store your will, there are a few best practices:
- Store your will in a fireproof cabinet, or other object that can resist heat and flames.
- Keep it somewhere that others can’t access to avoid malicious actors from getting their hands on your private information.
- Avoid placing your will in an area that could be affected by other environmental events like a flood or rain.
Potential storage locations
There are multiple options that are generally seen as secure and trustworthy places to store a will:
- You can store your will with a law firm. Lawyers are required to keep your documents safe in a fireproof vault.
- In a safe place at home, whether that's in a filing cabinet or safe. The key is to ensure your will is safe from damage but also can be found when it's needed.
- Safety deposit boxes at banks provide a high level of security, but it's important to make sure that your executor will be able to access this space after your death. You don't want a situation where the bank insists on seeing the will before it will grant you access to the safety deposit box.
- Wills used to be stored with courthouses, although this practice is much less common today.
Storing a will with the executor
Some people choose to store their will with their chosen executor. This helps ensure that this individual has easy access to the will when they need it, but it can be risky.
If you’re doing this, be sure that they’re following the guidelines above about keeping it in a safe place. And have a backup plan in case your executor predeceases you or becomes incapacitated.
Don’t hide your will too well
Keeping your will where access is limited is good. Keeping your will where no one will find it is bad. Without the actual will, it cannot be acted on. To avoid this, leave clear instructions and make sure that your executor knows exactly where your will is.
A good way to ensure your will is located is to use the Canada Will Registry. Registering your will ensures that no matter what, someone will be able to locate it when needed. Should there be issues with the executor or the estate administration process, there will be a record of the will somewhere. This record shows exactly where the will should be and acts as proof that it exists.