Storing Your New York Will

After making your New York Last Will and Testament, you need to secure storage. If the Will is damaged or destroyed, that could give rise to an inference that it was revoked (intentionally cancelled by you). Also, unless there is a copy kept somewhere else, it may be impossible to ever know its contents.

Your Will should be stored in a safe place, where it can be accessed after your death. Most people either keep their Last Will at home or in a safe deposit box.

Can I deposit my Will with the Court?

No. Although some states provide this service, there is no such facility in the New York surrogates court.

Storing Your New York Will at Home

Many people choose to keep their Last Will with them at home. The safest option would be to purchase a fireproof safe. If you die in a house fire, then at least your Will can be protected. If your Last Will & Testament ended up being burned in the fire, your executor would have a hard time trying to get the Will probated.

For example, if you drafted the New York Will yourself and did not provide anyone with a copy, then it is highly unlikely that the Will would be admitted to probate. You would be deemed as dying intestate (without a Will) and your property would be distributed in accordance with the New York intestacy law.

If the burnt document was drafted by an attorney, then your executor may be able to obtain a copy of your Will (perhaps with your instructions for drafting the Will) from the attorney. This could be produced as evidence in the probate proceeding and the court may accept that as proof of your Last Will and Testament.

Storing Your New York Will in a Safe Deposit Box

This is perhaps the securest method of storage. Unfortunately, the executor will not be able to remove your Will from the deposit box after your death (not even if he/she is an authorized user or a joint lessee).

Section 2003(2) of the Surrogate’s Court Procedure statute states that no one can access your safe deposit box after you die, not even if you have authorized that person to have access after year death. Your executor will need to seek permission from the court.  This is done by filing an application for an order to examine the safe deposit box. This form can be found on the surrogate’s court website.

The order permits the applicant to inspect the contents of the box in the presence of an officer. If a Last Will and testament is found in the box, the applicant is required to deliver the paper to the court personally or by registered mail.

The order also requires any policy of insurance found in the examination to be delivered to the named beneficiary.

If you named a person as joint lessee or an authorized deputy (a person allowed access to your safety deposit box), then after your death, that person is entitled to inspect and make copies of any document which relates to your burial or cremation, any deed to a cemetery plot or proof of membership in a burial society. This can be done without a court order but must be in the presence of an officer of the company or firm where the box is held. The papers can only be removed with the approval of the court. Remember, you can revoke a person’s access at any time prior to your death.

As you can see, storing your New York Will is extremely important. To avoid running into problems, you should either invest in a fire proof safe or use a safety deposit box facility. Either way, always inform your executor where to find your original New York Last Will and Testament after your death. You can still keep its contents confidential, say in a sealed envelope. It just makes the process a lot easier if your executor is properly informed of your Will’s whereabouts.


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