Storage of Wills and Powers of Attorney
Storing of Wills
As you 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 suggest that a safety deposit box is the ideal location to store the original Will. I recommend checking with your bank as to what they might be able to offer regarding safety deposit boxes. Only a small box is required as a Will may be folded. Some banks will offer a free box if you maintain a certain bank balance, or will offer discounted fees if you are over a certain age. However even a small safety deposit box is no longer inexpensive so very few people in my experience have them, and there is not much else in our electronic world to store in them.
The second best place to keep the original Will is at a Lawyer’s office with a good fire proof safe. I am pleased to advise that I have made an arrangement with the Law Firm of Merovitz Potechin LLP at 1565 Carling Avenue, Ottawa, Ontario, K1Z 8R1, to safe keep my Wills and Powers of Attorney when I retire. My agreement with that firm states there will be no fee charged for the safekeeping of the Will, or 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 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 Wills will be in good hands. Though there are alternative places to store Wills as set out below, it is my recommendation that if one does not have a safety deposit box the Will should be stored with me, and then upon my retirement with Merovitz Potechin.
The 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.