Ok, I have made my Will, now what?


Written by on October 19, 2016


For many people, the decision to make a Will is a difficult one. Contemplating and planning for what you want to happen to your material belongings after you pass can feel like a morbid exercise. Most people, having made the decision to put this exercise behind them give a sigh of relief once they have gotten through the Will interview and review process and signed their Will. Unfortunately, there is one last step in the process which is often overlooked but is vitally important. What do you do with your Will after you have signed it?

As a lawyer, I frequently see notices from other local lawyers that are looking for the Will of someone who has recently passed away, I see advertisements in legal journals seeking the Will of a recently deceased person and I am frequently asked by clients where they should keep their Will. Obviously, it really does not make much sense to go through the exercise of making a Will if you store it some place where no one will find it or be able to access it in the event of your death. Many of us have had those moments of knowing we put something away in a place it would be safe and were then unable to remember where that was! So what options do you realistically have for storing your Will?

Historically, if you consulted a lawyer for the preparation of your Will, the lawyer would graciously agree to store same for you. Many lawyers viewed their collection of Wills in storage as future business expecting that in the event of their client’s death, the Executor named in the Will would retain the lawyer storing the Will to assist in the administration of the estate.  The problem with this particular option was you had to make sure that your executor knew which lawyer you had used. If this key information was not communicated, it is possible that your executor may never find the Will, or they may find an older Will left with one lawyer and miss a newer Will left with another lawyer.

Many people maintain safety deposit boxes at banks or in their own home. These are good options but again, your executor must be told about them and, in the case of a home safety deposit box, know where it is stored and the password/key location to access it. In many of these cases, the box will contain many valuable papers or items and there may be concern about your executor having access to all of those contents while you are alive. In some cases the existence of a safe deposit box may not be discovered until some time after death as financial accounts and records are sorted out. In such a case, the inability to locate the safety deposit box may seriously delay the process of administering the estate or, in the worse case scenario, the box with the Will inside it may only be found after administration based on another Will or no Will has commenced.

Looking at the two most common storage recommendations, it is easy to see that there is a common problem of how do you make sure your Executor finds your Will when it is needed and that in the event that you have done multiple Wills the most recent Will is the one found and relied upon. It is for this reason that our practice at Thompson Law is to recommend that our clients use a little known function of the Ontario Superior Court of Justice which has Court Houses located in each and every judicial district throughout Ontario.  This little known function is called “the Deposit of a Will”.

Basically, after executing your Will you can take the original document to your local Superior Court House and go to the Estate Registrar’s counter where you can deposit your Will for safe keeping by the Court. The Estates Registrar will place your Will into an envelope, record the basic details of the Will (Testator’s Name and date of Will) in a Province wide computer database maintained by the Superior Court and then place the envelope in a secure climate controlled storage area where it will be kept until such time as you either claim it back or it is claimed by your Executors with proof of your death.  Now your Will is securely stored AND recorded in a government maintained database that is searchable through any Superior Court Registrar’s office in Ontario! This is also the same database that the Court Estate’s Registrar must search prior to any application for a Certificate of Administration being issued to any party. Your Will will be both securely stored and locatable in the event of your death.

So how much does this service cost? Currently as of the time of this writing, a whooping $20.00! And how long will the court keep the Will for that price? Indefinitely! The former Estates Registrar for Simcoe County once recounted to me that the Barrie Court House Will Deposit holds at least one Will that if the testator was still alive, he would be well over 125 years old. But seeing as no one has claimed the Will with evidence of his death, it remains securely stored in the Court house.

So in these days of high taxes and decreasing government services, the Superior Court Will Deposit is a great option for the storage of your Will and a bargain for any Ontario tax payer!

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