Storing a will – ensure it is safe and secure

Storing a will for safekeepingstoring a will, will storage, safe custody for a will, willmaking, deceased estate,
Wills are important private and confidential documents which take legal effect on the death of its maker.  An original will should be stored in a safe and secure place after being signed and witnessed.  Ideally the place should be fireproof, and protected from tampering or destruction. 

Willmakers should consider their personal circumstances, family and other relationships when considering storage options. In some situations storing a will at home is not advisable if it is likely persons adverse to what it contains can access it. 

And make sure you inform your nominated executors or legal personal representatives of your original documents. 

The importance of an original will

Probate law requires the production of the original will document when applying for a grant of probate from the court. Even if the estate is small and a grant of probate is not required, financial institutions and others will require to see the original will, or a certified copy of it. Without this important document, it the timely administration of the deceased estate is delayed and at additional costs until the situation is resolved.

Sometimes in narrow circumstances the court may approve a copy of a lost original will  to be admitted to probate.  Otherwise the estate is distributed according to the rules of intestacy, which the willmaker didn’t want, the point of making a will is so you can choose who gets what.  After going to the trouble of making a will, ensure the original is protected.  

Approaches to storing a will

  • 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.

Will deposit at the Probate Registry of the Supreme Court of New South Wales

As provided by the Succession Act 2006 in NSW, anyone can deposit their will with the Probate Registry of the Supreme Court for safe keeping, go here. 

Sections 51 – 53 of the Succession Act 2006 (NSW) set out the process of what is required in depositing the will: s 51, and the procedure to obtain it: s 52

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

  • place it 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.

In addition it is worth placing a label on the outside of the envelope or packet with the following information:

  • The willmaker’s name and address as it is recorded in the will;
  • Name and address of executors as stated in the will;
  • Date of the will;
  • If being stored in a storage facility the name and contact details of the person depositing it.


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 29 June 2019.

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

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