I think we've all agreed by now that it's sensible to make a Will. So can we also agree that it's equally smart to let your nearest and dearest know where you keep it?
If no-one can find it, it's entirely possible that all of your heartfelt last wishes will end up flushed down the u-bend of history. Your decisions on your prized possessions, your admirable resolution to donate your vital organs to transplant surgery in order to prolong the life of a stranger...all lost, all forgotten.
Besides you wouldn't want your bereaved loved ones to have to suffer the indignities of playing a rather grim version of Hunt The Thimble in order to make sure the sister you haven't spoken to for thirty years doesn't get her hands on your Capodimonte porcelain collection.
A death in the family is devastating. Having to root through boxes and in various nooks and crannies on your hands and knees when you should be mourning, makes a tough time even worse.
So where should you keep your Will?
There are a number of sensible options but let's start with where NOT to keep it — a bank safety deposit box.
When you die, your bank can't open your deposit box until the person you have appointed as executor gets probate, i.e. the court's permission to administer your affairs. And probate can't be granted without your Will, making the bank safety deposit box option a kind of bereavement version of Catch 22.
You have to make sure that your Will can be accessed easily without probate. I'm not suggesting getting it tattooed across your torso — that would be time-consuming and painful. And what if you change your mind?
More practical solutions include:
Leave it with a solicitor
If you got a solicitor to write your Will they will normally store it free of charge and give you a copy (but make sure that this is included as part of the price).
A solicitor will also store your Will if he didn't write it for you, but they will most likely charge for that.
Solicitors have a code of conduct, and if they damage or mislay the document there is a legal means to recompense.
Use a Will Writing service to store it
There will be a charge — Active Wills for example are currently offering this service, worth £29, for free, which is a lot cheaper than most solicitors (but again always check up front).
Will Writing services aren't as regulated as solicitors, but many will be covered by Professional Indemnity Insurance, which is just as good.You can lodge your Will with the Probate Service (England & Wales) for a £20 flat fee. However if you want to take it back while you're alive you are the only person who can do this and it does entail form-filling and a waiting period — not much use in an emergency.
Keep it at home
In a safe, in a drawer, in a shoebox under the bed...wherever suits. That's free of course but make sure your spouse and your executor knows where it is. And tell them in writing, so they don't forget.
The downside? If it's easy to find your Will, it's easy for someone in the family to alter, destroy or otherwise lose it. I'm not saying your kith and kin are dishonest, but it happens in TV soaps all the time.
My father was a fireman, back before they were called fire-fighters. He used to keep all his important documents in an old desk bureau — his Will, his banking info, his passport, his medical records, his BEM medal — which he called his 'Snafu' desk. We used to joke about it and tease him for being morbid, but when Dad died it made finding things so much easier. He was thinking of us. It doesn't hurt to think about doing the same for the ones you love.
As we've previously discussed, if you don't leave a Will you have no way of ensuring which of your loved ones gets what — and which of them get nothing at all. But making a Will and not telling a soul where you've kept it is as bad as not making one at all.
The last thing anyone who has just lost someone they love needs to worry about is where they've stashed their Will.
Garry Bushell, June 2017.