Storing Your Will in a Safety Deposit Box

storing your will, safety deposit box, Illinois estate planning attorney, write a will, Illinois law, estate planning document, powers of attorney, trust instruments Illinois law does not mandate that you write a will. But if you do write a will, be sure that you keep the original document in a safe place, because the law only allows the original will to be admitted to probate. In other words, if your family can only locate a copy of the original, then the law presumes that you intended to revoke the will. That presumption can only be overcome by clear and convincing evidence that you did not intend to revoke the will. For example, your family might present evidence that the original was accidentally destroyed in a fire.

The best way to avoid unnecessary complications is to store your original will in a secure place, such as a safety deposit box. Under the Safety Deposit Box Opening Act, the lessor (the person who leases the box for your use) will open the box if given proof that the lessee (the person who leased the box for his use) has died. The lessor will open the box and examine its contents for a person who furnishes an affidavit stating that:

  • He wants to file the lessee’s will;
  • He believes the box contains the will; and
  • He qualifies as an “interested person.”

An “interested person” is someone who has the right to access the box who could be a sibling or spouse, or other party according to Illinois law. If the affidavit states that none of these people are available, then the lessor has the discretion to determine that another person has a legitimate interest in filing the lessee’s will.

Opening a Safety Deposit Box

Once the box is opened, the lessor must take out any document that appears to be a will or codicil (a supplementary document that explains or modifies the will) and deliver it to the circuit court for the county in which the lessee lived before death. If the lessor does not know where the lessee resided then he can deliver the document to circuit court for the county where the deposit box remained. (Delivery may be made via registered mail.)

The lessor will not open the box if the lessee’s key or combination is not available, the box has previously been opened in accordance with state law, or if the lessor has received an oral or written objection from someone.

Note that the law does not require the lessor to investigate the affidavit’s truthfulness. He may rely conclusively on the affidavit without incurring any legal penalties.

The rules regarding safe storage apply to any estate planning document, including powers of attorney or trust instruments. Contact us today regarding all of your estate planning needs. We will help you prepare and store your documents and can advise you regarding any modifications you might wish to make. Our experienced Illinois estate planning attorneys will ensure that your wishes are carried out after you die. We can assist those in the Naperville area.