Once you’ve written a will and created an estate plan, you need to figure out what to do with the will itself. Obviously, it’s very important to keep track of the location of your current will – as well as any old wills.
The safest place to keep the original copy of your will is in a bank safe deposit box, but it might not always be the most practical. If the will is in a safe deposit box, it might be difficult for your family to access the box after you die.
Another option is to keep it at home in a fire-proof safe – as long as your family members know how to open the safe.
You can also ask your attorney to keep the original copy of the will. If you do so, be sure to provide your attorney with updated contact information if you move.
If you use a safe deposit box or ask your attorney to keep the original will, you might want to keep a copy at home with your other financial documents. Some people give copies of their will to family members or friends, but this is usually not a good idea because you might want to change the distributions at some point, and if family members and friends have copies of an older version, this can be very confusing.
Speaking of making changes to your will, you should never mark up the will by hand, even if you only want to make small changes. If you mark up the will, this could later be taken as evidence that you wanted to revoke the entire will, and the whole thing could be invalidated. If you want to make a change, contact your attorney who can draft an amendment to the will, which is called a codicil.
If you change your will, you will then need to decide what to do with your earlier will. Do you want to keep it, or destroy it? This is a difficult decision and you might want to consult your attorney about it.
The reason to keep the old will is that, if something happens to the new will or it is invalidated for any reason, the old will can be used in its place. If you made only minor changes to your will, the old will is probably fairly close to what you wanted, and is certainly better than having no will at all.
On the other hand, if you made major changes to your will, you might want to destroy the old version. If you disinherited someone, for instance, the fact that the old will is still in existence could prompt that person to try to challenge the new will and reinstate the old one.
Also, many people are afraid that an heir’s feelings will be hurt if the heir can read old versions of a will and see how the person’s attitude toward them changed over time.