After taking the time to plan and execute a will, many people wonder what to do with the actual document to ensure it stays safe and can be found by the executor when the time comes. Without the original, executed copy of the last will and testament, the executor may be unable to pass the estate through probate and the court will consider the estate to be in intestacy.
Some of the most common places people keep their wills can include the office of the attorney who may have helped draft the will and advise the client, a safe deposit box in a bank, or in a fireproof safe at the individual’s home. Each of these scenarios have strengths and weaknesses and what may be the right fit for one person may not be the best for another. In any case, the executor’s access to the original copy of the last will and testament is crucial to the estate passing through probate.
Another less well known option is the register the original copy of the will with the appropriate Surrogate’s Court while the testator is still alive. Filing the will with your local probate court is a good plan in case the executor to your estate cannot find the original copy of the will or if you believe the document may be subject to tampering.
One reason why filing the will with the Surrogate’s Court is to prevent the executor from destroying the will or claim the will does not exist if doing so would enrich him or her under New York’s intestacy laws. Under intestacy laws, estates without a last will and testament will pass onto heirs in a specific succession order, leaving other relatives effectively cut out without instructions from the deceased.
Before filing the will with the probate court where you reside, you must ensure the will is valid and executed. To do this, you will need to make sure the will is typewritten, acknowledged, and signed by two witnesses. You will also want to file proofs of the will, affidavits of the two attesting witnesses, to ensure the process goes as smoothly as possible and there are no other delays.
While the filing fee varies from court to court, it typically only costs about $45 to file your last will and testament with the Surrogate Court where you reside. If you move, you will need to refile the will with the court in the new county you live in.