Storing a will – ensure it is safe and secure

storing a will, will storage, safe custody for a will, willmaking, deceased estate, Storing a will for safekeeping

Wills are important private and confidential documents.  An original will should be stored in a safe and secure place after being signed and witnessed.  Ideally the place should be fireproof and the like.  Depending on the status of family relationships, if kept at home, it the document should be protected from tampering or destruction.  And don’t forget to inform your executors where the will is located.

Probate law requires that the original will be attached to an application for a grant of probate from the court. Without it, the timely administration of the deceased’s estate is delayed until the situation is resolved.  A summary of the usual approaches to storing a will follows.

  • Some law firms offer storage facilities to their clients for the safe custody of wills and other legal documents, often at no cost.
  • Original wills may be stored with your personal papers, preferably in a secure, fire-poof, water-proof document safe.
  • Using a safe deposit box at your bank.  Some banks offer a variety of storage services for a fee, including packets, to keep documents secured.  For example, the Commonwealth Bank offers a service, at the time of writing here, and Westpac here.

The Probate Registry of the Supreme Court of South Australia suggests the following in taking care of an original will:

  • place in an envelope or plastic packet;
  • don’t remove staples, pins and the like (if there are any) to photocopy or scan it;
  • don’t attach any pins, clips staples etc to it.  If there are any holes, marks in the paper left it may raise the question as to whether the will has been tampered with requiring explanation by affidavit.


Similarly any codicils made to a will should be stored together with the original of that will in a safe and secure place.

Storing copies of an original will
Scanned copies of an original will document can be stored electronically in various ways.  For example in a password protected file or on a password protected USB flash drive device, which in turn needs to be kept in a safe and secure place.

Tell your executors

Finally, although a will is a private and confidential document, it is helpful to let your executors know where to find your will when it is required and who to contact, if applicable.

Sometimes a willmaker may overlook telling their executor where they put their original will. This can cause difficulty and delay as loved ones search high and low, not sure whether the original will might even be lost. If the will had been secreted away, in some obscure place, such as being put in a container under the house or in the roof, then the danger is that unless executors or loved ones think to search every nook and cranny, it may be concluded that there was no will. In that case the estate would be distributed according to the intestacy rules, which likely would not be the outcome the deceased wanted, given they went to the trouble of making a will.

Nor perhaps it is a good idea to do what one lady did, one version of her will was kept in the dining room drawer, knowing that certain relatives would check it out in her absence, while another, the intended final version, was kept somewhere else! Maybe she felt she had good reason.

B Stead
BHS Legal
7 Sep 2014, updated 21 March 2018.

Important notice: This article is intended for general interest and information only. It is not legal advice, nor should it be used as a substitute for legal advice. Always consult a legal practitioner and/or other professional for specialist advice specific to your needs and circumstances, and rely on that.

© BHS Legal

Return to top