Original wills are misplaced all the time. There is a way to get around that. You can simply file it with the Clerk of Courts, in your county of residence in South Dakota. They will store it for you and presumably they will not lose it.

In Baltimore, Maryland, rather than simply leaving the filing of wills to the Clerk of Courts, they have a special office called the Register of Wills. This is an elected office, which by statute is required to provide safe keeping for the last will and testament of living persons.

One can only imagine that it was a source of substantial embarrassment when the person elected to that office could not find her own father’s will. In her petition filed with the court to have the will admitted to probate, the Maryland County Register of Wills had to admit that she could not find it. It had apparently never been filed with her office and she could only find a copy among the personal papers and never was able to find the original.

Fortunately, in this case the children who inherited under the copy of the will agreed that this was the appropriate copy and no will contest was filed. In the Baltimore city case, everybody agreed and there were no problems. However, sometimes when money is involved heirs may not agree which copy of the will is accurate and which will represents the desires of the decedent. This can lead to will contests and sometimes property passing through the laws of intestacy rather than as was the desire of the decedent.

For these reasons, it is very important for your loved ones to find your most recent original will. Without it, the laws of your state may presume that you intended to destroy your will and a copy will not be viewed as admissible to probate. It can be viewed as simply worthless paper.

It is important for you to know where your original will is located. It is important for your loved ones to know where your original will is located. They do not need to know what it says, but they do need to know where it is.

Sometimes people may not be comfortable letting family members know where to find their will. If that is the case, let someone you trust such as your attorney, your accountant, or your financial advisor know where to find your original will. Otherwise, your family may end up in front of a probate judge and your true final wishes may be overlooked.   The ultimate point is, you need to tell someone.  Don’t hide your will or other estate planning documents.  Talk to your loved ones, your attorney, your CPA, financial adviser or other trusted professional, and tell them where and how to access your estate planning documents.

Any time you wish to discuss this important aspect of your will and other estate planning documents and tools, please give me a call, send me an email, or send a letter, I would love to help you with these issues.

Doug Thesenvitz
300 N. Dakota Ste 603
Sioux Falls, SD