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Do Lawyers Keep Original Copies of Wills? Truth Revealed!

The original copy of the will is crucial for the probate process. According to the law, the executor must submit the original will and other documents for the probate case hearings. Without having the original copy, all other copies will be considered invalid. 

The tricky part is many executors only have a copy of the will. And since the person who owned everything is no longer around, finding the real will becomes a big mystery. Lucky for you, we’re here to uncover the truth about where that original will might be.

We’ll answer some important questions:

  • Do lawyers keep the original copies of the will?
  • What if there’s no real will – what happens then?
  • How do you handle probate cases without the original will?

Let’s solve this mystery with facts!

Do Lawyers Keep The Original Will?

Yes, most lawyers keep their clients’ original will, but it’s not always guaranteed. Many lawyers give the original copy to their clients, and if they don’t, lawyers usually dispose of all past documents after a specific period, like 5 years, 10 years, etc. 

Lawyers who hold onto the original will often do so for specific reasons. Sometimes, clients request them to keep it safe. Additionally, there’s a likelihood that the deceased person’s family might approach the lawyer when they need the will. 

When the family or the person in charge of the will shows up, they might hire the same lawyer for the probate process. So, it’s all about keeping things safe and being ready if the family needs help.

What Happens If The Original Copy of A Will Is Lost?

As we said, it’s not a sure thing that a lawyer will keep the main copy of your will, and they’re not required by law to do so. Sometimes, lawyers misplace the original will, whether due to a fire or moving to a new office.

If you’re missing original will, filing the probate case can be difficult as it’s a required document to check the authenticity. In many states, no original will means the deceased person has canceled the will and destroyed the original copy.  

In these situations, your case comes under the laws of intestacy. The court follows state laws, not what’s in the other copies of the will. If there are two kids, the estate gets split equally between them. 

What Happens To Your Will If Your Lawyer Dies?

If your lawyer is part of a bigger firm and the deceased person has been in touch with them, the original will likely be safe. Larger firms often have secure places, like fireproof safes, to store important documents, including wills.

So, even if your lawyer dies or retires, the original will and other documents should be secure. However, we can’t say the same for lawyers who work individually. In some cases, the team or family of the lawyer sends the documents to the family, but not always. 

It’s a good idea to contact the lawyer’s office and team to find out whether they still possess the original will or not. If not, you should also try to find the will in other places like the office room of the deceased or a safe deposit box. 

What Do You Do When You Can’t Find The Original Will?

Once you’re sure there’s no original copy of the will, you should move towards the next step, which is a bit of a difficult and long process. You have to prove that the copy of the will you’ve is an accurate representation of the deceased person’s intentions. 

For this process, the executors must submit an affidavit, along with the will copy. An affidavit is an oath or affirmation confirming that the copy of the will is the final wish of the person who died. Ultimately, it’s up to the court to decide whether to accept the will or not.

If the court deems your will invalid, it means there’s no legally recognized will, and the case will proceed according to state law. All property will be distributed among the legal beneficiaries, such as the wife, son, daughter, etc.

Conclusion

In short, yes, lawyers keep the original copies of the will. It assures that in the future, clients will come again and also  to keep it safe. However, they also destroyed the old documents after a specific time, as many firms do after 10 years of no contact. 

If you find yourself without the original will, reach out to our team of estate planning lawyers. We’re here to help you with any questions or needs you may have. You can also schedule a free consultation with our attorney. 

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Dustin MacFarlane’s primary focus is on Elder Law and protecting families and seniors. He is a Certified Specialist in Estate Planning, Trust, and Probate Law by the State Bar of California Board of Specialization — a rare distinction.

Prior to becoming an attorney, Mr. MacFarlane worked in the Long Term Care industry. After becoming licensed to practice law in January of 2009, Elder Law quickly became his focus. Seeing the need during his former career, Mr. MacFarlane pursued Elder Law as a primary area of practice.

By Dustin MacFarlane

Dustin MacFarlane’s primary focus is on Elder Law and protecting families and seniors. He is a Certified Specialist in Estate Planning, Trust, and Probate Law by the State Bar of California Board of Specialization — a rare distinction.

Prior to becoming an attorney, Mr. MacFarlane worked in the Long Term Care industry. After becoming licensed to practice law in January of 2009, Elder Law quickly became his focus. Seeing the need during his former career, Mr. MacFarlane pursued Elder Law as a primary area of practice.