Where Should You Keep Your Original Will?
Whoever has control of the original will can affect whether or not a change you made will be accepted as valid. Your original is likely in one of the following places:
In your possession, typically in your home
In a safe-deposit box
With your lawyer
On file with the probate court
In Your Possession
When your original will is in your possession, it is less likely a question will arise as to whether any changes were made. The more people who have physical access to your will, however, the greater the chance someone can alter the will without your permission.
Perhaps you are thinking about making a change. For example, assume you take your will out of your desk, and you make some notes on the document or put a line through several provisions. You aren't certain you are ready to make the change, so you put your will back into the desk drawer. You die. When the document is admitted to probate, there will probably be a debate about whether you struck certain provisions with the intent to revoke them or were merely thinking about making changes.
Unless you have interviewed and documented how the lawyer is going to charge to probate your estate when you are gone, you need to remind your family that they don't have to hire that lawyer to probate your estate merely because she has possession of the original will.
In a Safe-Deposit Box
The significance of having your will in your safe-deposit box depends on who had access to the box while you were alive. If someone has access to your safe-deposit box, she could remove your will and make changes without your permission. Even if you were the only one with access to the box, you might bring your will home, where someone could alter it. The fact that the will was kept in the safe-deposit box may or may not help your executor prove that a change was made to your will.
With Your Lawyer
When your lawyer keeps the original will, the chance that changes were made without your permission is minimal. No self-respecting lawyer would allow you to make a change to your will without having you sign a document that makes the changes in the presence of two witnesses and a notary. If you leave your original will with your lawyer, you need to make sure your loved ones know how to contact him.
On File with the Probate Court
If you put your original will on deposit with the probate court in the county where you are living, you are the only person who has access to the will. When you want to make changes, you can do so and then return the new, changed will to the probate court. Having the document on deposit with the probate court minimizes the chance that someone other than you will alter your will. If you remove your will from the probate court to make changes, you need to be sure to make the desired changes with the necessary formalities.
It is not difficult to change your will, but it is important that you make the changes correctly. Otherwise, the probate court will invalidate your will or a portion of your will, and your intentions will be defeated. The best way to change your will is to make a new one.