What is a Will Registry?
What’s worse than dying without an estate plan? Having one, but your survivors are unable to locate it, or don't even know to look for it. In such a case, your estate would be distributed under intestacy laws, the state laws that dictate the division of property of people who die without a will.
Let’s say you are widowed, in your seventies, with two biological sons from your first marriage. You are close with your elder son, but you are estranged from your younger son and haven’t seen him in decades. You have a stepdaughter you helped to raise. You consider her your own child, although there is no legal relationship. Your will leaves everything to your elder son and your stepdaughter in equal measures, except for a small legacy to your younger son and some family heirlooms you want your niece to have. If your will is never found, your estate will be divided equally between your sons, regardless of your wishes. Your stepdaughter will not receive anything, and the family heirlooms will not go to the niece who would have cherished them.
Scenarios like this are the driving force behind the creation of will registries. A will registry is a service people can use to record the location of their wills and estate planning documents, so that their loved ones will know where to look for them after their death. Some will registries permit you to store the actual documents with them; others, just to record their location.
The Downside of Will Registries
Will registries can serve a useful function, especially for those with complicated family situations or those who relocate frequently. But they are not a perfect solution. It usually costs money to register your information with a private company. If you change your will or move it, and forget to update the registry, the registry is useless to you. And there are an increasing number of will registries. Your loved ones may not know which one to search. If they have never heard of will registries, it may not occur to them to search one at all.
An Alternative to Will Registries
Will registries are in the business of information storage and sharing. But you can store and share your information for free:
- Don’t keep secrets: Tell your loved ones you have a will and/or other estate planning documents, and where they are stored.
- Put it in writing: Communicate the location of your will in a letter or an e-mail.
- Predict loved ones’ behavior: If you feel uneasy keeping your will in your desk or filing cabinet, put it in a more secure location, but leave a conspicuous written note with the will’s location in those places you think your family is likely to look.
- Enlist the professionals: Keep a copy of your will at your lawyer’s office. Distribute your attorney’s business cards to your loved ones with a written note about your will’s location.
Remember, your will is useless if nobody can find it. Contact Weatherby & Associates today at 888-822-8778 to learn how we can help you to keep your loved ones informed of your will’s location so they can carry out your wishes.