Where to put your will

Tina Haapala |

You’ve heard my admonishments about getting a will.Now the question is: Where is the best place to keep it safe? You might stick it in one of those little water/fire-proof boxes and put it in the back of a closet. The problem with those in tornado country is that your will and any other valuable information or treasures stored in it could be found three counties over in a drainage ditch, making an already difficult situation worse. Plus those little boxes are very attractive to thieves.

While I’m smart, I’m not legal-smart, so I asked my friend John Lane, who happens to be an attorney, about this. John first reminded me that he was giving me general information that certainly doesn’t apply to every one of my readers. So if you want to make sure this applies to you (and if you’ve put off getting a will in the first place),then talk to your attorney.

According to John, one of the most obvious places to put your original will is in a safe deposit box at your bank. They’re built pretty tough, the vault should make it through most calamities, and the likelihood of theft is just about nil. The main problem is that if you’re dead (and we are talking about a will after all), who’s gonna be able to get at the box?

One way is to name someone other than you as a joint holder of the box.If you didn’t or wouldn’t do that, then Texas law allows certain family members to examine the contents of the box in the presence of a bank employee. If the will is found, the bank will send it to the court.

If those family members don’t come forward, the last option is for someone to go to court and get a judge’s order to examine the box. Again, if a will is found it will go to the court. This takes longer and might cost the interested party some money if they hire an attorney to help. So, if you can, try to make sure someone other than you has access to the box when you die.

Don’t have a safe deposit box? John tells me that some attorneys will keep them for you, though he doesn’t do it himself. The reason? He’s got the same problem you do. To buy the necessary storage that is fire, flood, wind, and theft-proof for what could be thousands of documents would be prohibitively expensive.

An alternative is to deposit it with the country clerk’s office. Again, you’ll need to let people know where it is. This also adds one more layer of complexity if you move out of the county or you need to change your will.

Here’s my idea. It’s not perfect, but I kinda like it. How about putting your will in a waterproof bag and then put the bag in your freezer under the peas? Not a bad idea, said John. Who says lawyers don’t have a sense of humor?

This article was published in the Wichita Falls Times Record News on August 23, 2015.