Will storage – what’s the safest option for clients’ documents?

Should clients continue to store their wills with a law firm, or are there better options out there?

A recent article published by Human Law has taken the controversial stance of advocating that clients should not store their original wills with solicitors, but instead decide upon a safe storage place themselves.

After the death of a loved one, a worst case scenario is that the will cannot be found in order for probate to be granted. With such a large portion of the population currently not creating wills, the loss of such an important document is understandably even more frustrating. Without a valid will, the deceased’s estate will be subject to strict intestacy rules, perhaps resulting in the estate being divided in a way that the deceased did not wish.

For law firms, a growing trend towards clients keeping their wills outside of the firm may come as a blow. Many firms benefit from gaining probate custom from clients whose wills they keep on site, and are often valued greater if they hold a large number of client wills. However, the increased use of national wills registers, such as Certainty, adds further defence to law firms who then are not placed in the position of being the solely responsible of knowing the location of a client’s will.

Recent years have shown a rise in the number of methods used to store wills, with many private companies now providing secure safe-keeping facilities. The Human Law article encourages those with wills to use The Principal Registry of the Family Division to ensure maximum safety, making sure to inform their executors of the location. Whilst this is a good option, there are various alternatives such as storing wills with banks, or even in a location of the client’s choosing, although this isn’t widely encouraged.

Many clients will continue to store their will with a law firm, but take advantage of utilising a wills register to ensure future family members can locate the document. This can be done by solicitors on behalf of their clients when the will is created. The efficient service provides an added level of knowledge for executors over where a will is kept.

Although it doesn’t appear as though the tradition of storing client wills within law firms will change in the short-term, it may be suggestive of a longer-term trend. In the meantime, wills registers are becoming an increasingly common and highly praised addition to the industry.

Where do you believe is the best place for clients to store their wills? Does your firm use wills registers regularly? Let us know your thoughts in the comments.

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