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Store your Will carefully. A legal, thorough, and challenge-proof Will is useless if it can't be found. 

Review your Will at least once a year - and whenever your life changes. Keeping your Will up-to-date is just as important to having your wishes carried out as are writing and executing it properly. An out-of-date Will can be even worse than no Will at all.

Where To Store Your Will

When deciding where to store your Will, balance several factors:

  • The document must be kept in a safe place.
  • It must be easy to get to by the person you choose to administer your Will (known as a Personal Representative or Executor).
  • It must not be available to anyone who would make more money if the Will didn't exist.

If you have an attorney, it is preferable to leave your original Will with him or her. 

If you don't have an attorney, or your attorney isn't willing to store your Will, put it in an envelope with the word "WILL" typed on it and then store it in a fireproof locked metal box, locked metal filing cabinet, or home safe that only someone you trust can access. Let the person with the key know that your Will is inside -- and what to do with it in the event of your death.  If the person with the key is not your Personal Representative/Executor, also let the Personal Representative/Executor know where your Will is stored and who has the key.

It is preferable not to store your Will in a safe deposit box.  Some states require safe deposit boxes to be sealed upon the holder's death.  This could cause delays in making your wishes known. 

Keep a copy of your Will in a safe place.

Let your Personal Representative/Executor know where the original is located.

List the location of the original of your Will on your Document Inventory.  

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Document Inventory

When To Review Your Will

Keeping your Will up-to-date is a life-long process.  As circumstances change throughout your life, review whether you want to make revisions to your Will.

Some happenings which should make you think about whether to update your Will include:

  • Marriage: Make sure your Will is updated when you get married, especially if you would want your spouse to get assets differently than what he or she would normally get under your state's intestacy laws (the laws that govern what happens if there is no Will).
  • Significant Others/New Beneficiaries:  There might be people in your life to whom you want to leave assets who weren't in your life when you first wrote your Will.  This can include close friends and significant others.  In non-traditional relationships, including your partner in a Will is critical to protect him or her.
  • Birth of a child:  Update your Will when you have a new child. 
  • Moving:  While your Will could be written to be valid in any state, double-check with a local attorney immediately after you move to another state.  This can be especially important if you move from or to a community property state such as California or Texas. 
  • Separation or Divorce.
  • Death of, or desire to change, your Personal Representative/Executor or his or her substitute. 
  • Death of, or desire to change, the guardian for your children.
  • Change in the amount of your wealth:  If you approach the level where you might owe estate taxes, changes in your estate planning may be necessary. Also, as your assets increase, you may want to add beneficiaries, especially charitable organizations.  On the flip side, if your estate decreases in value, you also may want to distribute your estate differently.
  • Change in your health:  Many people write their Wills with the expectation that their assets will be distributed at the end of a normal life span.  This is not the way to write a Will. It should be written as if you will get hit by a bus tomorrow. If there is a change in your health condition that could shorten your life, use the change as an excuse to revisit your Will and make sure it is appropriate in case something happens tomorrow.
  • Passage of another year. It's a good idea to review the provisions of your Will on an annual basis -- say at your birthday or New Year's.

How To Change Your Will

To change your Will, you'll need to use an amendment called a codicil.

  • A codicil is a document that contains a description of the changes you want to make.
  • For a codicil to be effective, it must be executed with all the same procedures you had to follow when you executed the Will that the codicil changes.
  • Be sure it is clear in the codicil what is to be changed in your Will, and what remains unchanged.
  • If you have a simple Will, or are making a large number of changes to your Will, it might be easier to just write a new Will.
  • To prevent accidentally making your Will invalid, we strongly consider using an attorney to write a codicil.

Make sure any changes are challenge-proof.

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How To Revoke A Will

You can revoke a Will by destroying it, or by revoking it in writing. For example, when a lawyer drafts a Will, there is usually a provision in it that all previous wills are revoked.

To be sure to avoid confusion, if you write a new Will, destroy the original of the old one.