Storage of Wills and Powers of Attorney
Storing of Wills
As one can only have one original Will, it should be kept in a very safe place. If a Will is lost a court “may” accept a copy but it is also possible that because at law lost Wills are presumed to be destroyed, the court may find there is no valid Will. If there is no valid Will a person‘s estate is distributed according to the law which basically means to the closest relative or relatives. This may not be what one had intended through their Will.
I had for most of my practice suggested that one’s safety deposit box was the ideal location to store the original Will. However experience has taught me that may not always be the case. I have found that clients have not put their Wills in the safety deposit box as they had planned, and then when they passed away the Will could not be found. This was recently experienced in a major case where the presumption of being able to use the copy of the Will was challenged. In another matter the client had written directly on the Will which resulted in the changes not being valid as the client had thought.
So these experiences have changed my original advice. I now recommend the original Will be kept at a lawyer’s office with a good fire proof safe. I have been providing this service free of charge for most of my practice. I would estimate that 90% of my clients have taken advantage of this storage service.
Now that I am planning on retiring at the end of April 2019, I am pleased to advise that I have arranged with the Law Firm of Merovitz Potechin LLP (1565 Carling Avenue), to store my client’s Wills and Powers of Attorney when I retire. My agreement with that firm ensures that there will be no fee charged for the storage of the Will, nor for providing the Will to the client or the Estate Trustee(s) (on death). Some law firms charge for either or both services. I have known Mr. Chuck Merovitz for 40 years and have used their firm for estate litigation on numerous occasions. Their web site has been a resource link from my web site for many years so I know my clients’ Wills and Powers of Attorney will be in good hands. Though there are also alternative places to store Wills as set out below, I recommend the Will should be stored with me, and then up my retirement with Merovtiz Potechin.
The Law Firm of Merovitz Potechin includes 12 lawyers who practice in various fields of law. Besides Wills and Trusts, estate administration and estate litigation, they have very experienced lawyers who do commercial and residential real estate, corporate commercial transactions, including franchising, and a team of litigation lawyers who help their clients resolve many business and other disputes. To learn more about their firm please see www.merovitzpotechin.com. Merovitz Potechin does not practice Family Law however both Peter Mirsky and Elise Hallewick in our firm, Mirsky Pascoe, practice in this area.
Alternative storage locations would be a fire proof safe at home, or your refrigerator or freezer (though ensure your documents are in a sealed container to avoid any water damage). You may also store an original Will at the Ottawa Court House for a nominal fee of $20. To do so, you simply need to bring your original Will, photo identification, and the $20 fee to the Estates Office, at the Ottawa Court House, 161 Elgin Street and complete a form provided at the Estates Office counter.
Storing of Powers of Attorney
Storing Powers of Attorney differs greatly from Wills. Unlike Wills, the Powers of Attorney should not be kept in a safety deposit box because they cannot be accessed by an attorney. I advise that the Powers of Attorney should be kept in the client Will manual which I provide during the signing of your Will and Powers.
I will store a copy of the Powers of Attorney if I am also storing the Will. Again I keep a digitalized copy and send one to my clients as well.