Once you have made your will, there are no legal requirements for how you store it. Of course, it’s crucially important that it is:
If a will cannot be found, your executors may have to assume that you died intestate (for more information on how this affects your estate, please see our page Avoiding intestacy).
It is also important that you do not store the only copy of your will in a bank’s storage facility, such as a safety deposit box. It can be very difficult for executors to gain access to it after your death because the bank may only give your executors access to the box with a grant of probate, which cannot be obtained without the will.
To avoid these complications, there are some recommended methods for storing your will. Each option has advantages and disadvantages, and so the important thing is to choose an option you feel comfortable with.
If your circumstances change, and you need to make a new will, or if you just want to revoke your existing will, knowing where it is will make it easier to retrieve it and destroy it.
If you have made your will in electronic form before a final paper version is signed, then online will-writing services usually have a stored digital copy. But remember that this is just for reference – it is only the signed and witnessed paper version which can be taken as your will.
Codicils and other documents
Codicils to your will should be stored with it. This is not a legal rule, but having codicils in different places will make life much harder for your executors, and might even raise questions about their validity.
To find out how you can safely make additions or amendments to your will, please see our page Changing a will.
Wherever you store your will, you should not attach any other documents to it. Any marks by paperclips or staples that have been removed can suggest that there are other parts of the will or codicils that are missing. This can make applying for probate time-consuming and expensive for your executors.
If this is the case, you can address any ambiguity resulting from the mark by creating a memorandum regarding it. This is a document confirming that the mark is there because a covering letter was attached, and that there were no other documents attached that would affect the terms of your will.
You may be able to store a will with a solicitor even if they did not write the will for you. There is often a charge attached, so make sure you understand any fees or conditions involved before you go ahead. A solicitor is likely to be more expensive than other options, but it may be more convenient if you want to access it during your lifetime. Solicitors are also regulated bodies, and so if something happens to your will you will have legal options to help fix the problem.
An increasing number of will-writing services also offer a will storage option. This service will often be cheaper than a solicitor, and many have the added convenience that you can access the will online. If you are considering using a will-writing service to store your will, make sure you properly investigate their terms and conditions. Things to look out for are what happens if the will-writing service closes down, and whether or not the service is regulated. If it is regulated, or associated with a regulated law firm, then it may be a useful option.
The Probate Service (part of the Principal Registry of the Family Division of the High Court) offers a will storing service. Depositing your will at the Probate Service costs a one-off fee of £20, which may be cheaper than many of the other professional storage options. However, to be able to access the will during your lifetime you will need to request access to it using a form from the HM Courts & Tribunal Service website. This mechanism is certainly safe, but may be less convenient than other options.
There is no rule against keeping your will at home, and many people do choose to keep at least a copy of their will in a safe place at home – in a personal safe or with your other important documents. It is not advisable to keep the only copy of your will at home: the risks of loss, damage, and fire are considerably higher at home than in a secure facility. If you do decide to keep your will at home, it is important to tell someone (preferably your executors) where you have kept it.