Storing Your Will: Why the Filing Cabinet in Your Home Office Is Not Your Best Option? (South Australia)

So, you have finally made your will and now you don’t know what to do with it. Each state and territory in Australia has slightly different storage options for original wills. South Australia does not have any sort of centralised will storage available, so it is up to the client where they will store their will. It is imperative that you consider this decision seriously because there is only one original will, and no right place to store it.

There are a few things to keep in mind when deciding where and how to store your original will. It must be kept somewhere that it will be safe from fire, water, theft, and curious persons. Also remember that it must be accessible to your executor after your death. Below I highlight some of the typical places that people store their original wills.

1. Solicitor’s Safe

When deciding on a solicitor to prepare your will, do not assume that they will store their will for you at all OR for free. Many law firms will provide this service to their clients, but will charge an annual fee. At Wills At Your Home I offer to keep original wills in my large fireproof safe at no cost to my clients. About 95% of my clients choose to use this free service. I give my clients a copy of their will to keep at home with their personal papers. I also ensure that all wills kept in my safe are registered on the ‘Wills Register.’ It is my recommendation that my clients inform their executor that their will is kept in my safe AND registered on the ‘Wills Register.’ The ‘Wills Register’ is a secure centralised register of South Australian wills. Solicitors can register wills that they hold online, and the database allows practitioners to quickly track down lost wills that have been registered.

2. Bank

Some clients consider their bank to be the safest place to store their will in a sealed envelope or a safe deposit box. My recommendation to clients is that they complete the bank’s authorisation form to specify that their executor can retrieve their will upon their death BEFORE you put your will into bank storage. There are fees associated with storing your will at the bank. The current annual fee is approximately $88 for a standard envelope supplied by the bank and approximately $198 a year for a safe deposit box. Do be sure that your executor knows the name of the bank and the branch where your will is kept, and the location of the key if you have a safe deposit box.

3. Home (Fire Proof Safe)

Very few homes have safes that are actually secure and protected. Many are lightweight and able to be moved by a thief or disgruntled family member. If you do have a large, fireproof safe that cannot be moved, be sure that your executor knows how to access the safe (location of key/combination), and be careful who else has access to the safe. By telling less people, there is less chance that someone can get into your safe after your death and dispose of your will before your executor can.

4. Probate Registry

There are currently very few wills stored at the Probate Registry. In certain limited circumstances the original will can be deposited with the Registrar of Probates. The Probate Registry provides, for a fee, secure custody for original wills. The deposit fee is $130, and there are strict procedures and rules for how it must be signed, deposited, and later withdrawn. Do inform your executor if you have deposited your original will at the Probate Registry.

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