Where’s The Will?

Imagine that your loved one passes away and a Will cannot be found. The consequences could be devastating. That’s why I always check that my clients have a safe place to store their new Will at the time of execution.

Typically, when the location of a Will is not evident, the regular course of action is to search the deceased person’s home and personal effects, as well as consult family members and even the attorney who drafted the Will. If it remains unfound, the process to probate a copy can be quite an undertaking.

In this situation, there is a legal presumption that the original Will was intentionally destroyed. In order to overcome that presumption, you must show the Court all of the steps taken to locate the original Will and that there was no change in circumstances to cause the deceased person to change or revoke the Will. If these requirements are met, and none of the heirs object, the Court will allow you to proceed with probate using a copy of the Will.

If a copy of the Will cannot be located, the only option is to proceed as if the deceased person died without a Will at all. In this instance, the distribution of your assets is determined by Georgia law and undue responsibility may be placed on family or friends. Usually a family member or friend would petition the court to be appointed Administrator and begin to manage the estate. The Administrator must resolve any unsettled debts and expenses of the estate. Then the remaining assets would be distributed to the deceased person’s heirs as determined by Georgia law, not as provided in the lost Will.

I cannot overstate the importance of storing your Will in a secure location; preferably a safe deposit box or a fireproof safe. Also be sure to inform your family, and especially your Executor, of the location so they can ensure your wishes are carried out.

Taking these simple and seemingly small precautions can help protect your loved ones from experiencing unnecessary headaches—and even heartache—during what is already a difficult time.

Want to be sure that your documents are safe and your loved ones have assistance when they need it most?  We offer storage of original documents and a complimentary consultation with your family or helpers at your death as part of our Annual Maintenance Program.  Reach out to my team at 770-817-4999 or drlg@debrarobinsonlaw.com to learn more.

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