Is a copy of a Will legally valid?
You are absolutely within your rights to make as many copies of your Will as you like. But is a copy of a Will legally valid?
The simple answer is no, and without getting into semantics, that is the advice we would always give. Copies are OK for giving to Executors or Guardians if you want them to be fully aware of the contents right now. We always suggest writing on the cover sheet “This is a copy of my Will. The original is stored at ______ with Reference number ______”. This can be very useful when the time comes, as so many Wills sit in stuffy filing cabinets, and then have to be found on the death of the testator.
However, for a Will to be valid, it needs to be the original, in good condition. For probate to be granted, the original Will must be sent to the Probate Registry, who will then issue the Executors with a Grant of Probate. If the original Will can’t be located, a copy of a Will can sometimes be accepted by the Probate Registrar, if there is enough evidence to prove that the original hadn’t been destroyed by the testator, and that the copy is of the legal LAST Will and Testament. You will most likely need the services of a professional dealing with ‘Contentious Probate’ – get your cheque books out!
Wills do go missing, and the courts try to apply as much common sense as they can, but ultimately they are dealing with an individual’s last wishes. It is incumbent on the authorities to ensure that those wishes are absolutely carried out.
The main reasons that a copy of Will may be submitted to Probate come back to the original being misplaced. This occurs when proper records haven’t been kept, and often when time has passed between making the Will and the death of the testator. When they are stored in dusty filing cabinets, usually at a solicitors that may have changed hands a number of times, the chances of them getting lost are increased.
Thoughtful Planning do offer a Will Storage service. Your document is sealed in a waterproof, rodent-proof wallet and kept in a secure facility. They are fully insured whilst in storage, and will be recreated and replaced free of charge should loss or damage occur. The location of your Will is recorded on the National Wills Register, and you are provided with plastic identity cards, which can be given to your Executor, who can then access your Will free of charge. Please ask for more information, or contact us with your enquiry.
So, in summary – you can make copies, and there’s an outside chance that they’ll be accepted as ‘the real thing’, but what’s the point? You will just be putting your loved ones under more pressure. Be ‘Thoughtful’ and secure the storage of your original.