Destroying a last will and testamentA last will and testament is a legal document that should be kept safe. These are a few places where NOT to keep your Will and other original legal documents:

 Safe Deposit Box

Storing your Will in a bank safe deposit box is not advisable because of the difficulties involved obtaining the document after your death. Your executor needs your original Will to open your Estate but does not have access to your safe deposit box. Frequently, a Probate Court Order is needed to open a safe deposit box in search for a Will.

Any unsecure Location

A person’s passing is a chaotic time and you do not know who will have access to your house immediately prior or following your death. If the Will is not secure, you risk its accidental or intentional destruction or theft. Additionally, the risk of fire damage is also present if not stored in a secure fire proof location.  Anyone having possession of a decedent’s will who receives notice of the death of the decedent must deliver it within 30 days after notice of death to the probate judge having jurisdiction. (S.C. Code Ann. § 62-2-901.)

There are criminal penalties for failing to deliver a discovered Will to the Probate court. However, that has not stopped the numerous cases we regularly see where the Will is believed to have been taken and destroyed by a disgruntled heir who may have not received his or her expected inheritance.  You may not believe your Will is at risk, but nobody knows who will be the first person to go through their personal belongings immediately following their death.

Destroy all Drafts and Prior Wills

If you have done various drafts of your Will or have had multiple Wills done over the years. It is important to destroy your old documents, even if your current Will states that it revokes all prior Wills. You do not want to create any confusion about which document is your valid Last Will and Testament and open the door to a costly Will caveat. You may know which document is the correct one, but this may not be obvious to family members who discover these papers after your death.

Contacting an Estate Planning Lawyer at (803) 351-3597 for specific information relating to preparing a Last Will and Testament.