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What Happens When Your Will is Lost?
Writing a will is never an easy task, but certainly necessary where loved ones are concerned. The most responsible and considerate action you can take is to have your will written up and signed so you know your executor will have a less complicated time dealing with your affairs after you’re gone.
However, what if a will has been misplaced and the executor is unable to locate the original copy of a deceased person’s document? Or, what if you can’t remember what happened to your loved one’s will?
On occasion, a person passes suddenly, and a will cannot be immediately located. A will may be unintentionally destroyed in a house fire or misplaced by the will-maker or other person. Also, a will could be intentionally destroyed by someone who stands to benefit from the will no longer existing.
Undeniably, a missing will causes all sorts of challenging legal issues and questions for the proposed beneficiaries. They may wonder if there was an earlier will. Initially, individuals should search everywhere possible to locate an original copy.
When a will is lost, individuals can search for a ‘Wills Notice’ in the Vital Statistics Will Registry. This process may take weeks and can be done by anyone if the will-maker has passed away. However, it can only be searched by the will-maker or the lawyer if the will-maker is alive.
In BC, it is recognized that if the original will was in the possession of the deceased but is missing, then the deceased rescinded the will. But if someone has a copy of a will and can satisfy the court that the will was lost and not revoked, you may be able to validate a photocopy.
The person assigned to carry out the will-maker’s instructions, the Executor, must find proof that the will is legally valid, called ‘probate.’ They do so by filling out forms and submitting them to the Probate Registry of any Supreme Court in BC.
You may also contact the correct Supreme Court Registry if the will has in fact been probated, thereby confirming they have the will.
If you absolutely cannot locate an original will but have a copy, then a careful investigation must be executed to present the resulting evidence before a court. One should also find out who drafted and witnessed the will so it’s sensible to speak to all friends and family members. You may also be required to contact medical professionals to determine the mental state of the will-maker. Bank records may need to be obtained to confirm, for example, a safety deposit box was accessed regarding will removal. A photocopy of the will might be accepted by the court if there is evidence that the deceased actually signed the original copy.
Attempting to resolve the whereabouts of a lost will is costly and time-consuming. Certainly, the laws of a missing will bring up complicated issues that cannot be dealt with without a professional lawyer on your side. Unfortunately, if a large amount of assets is involved, all claimants could generate costly legal bills in the ensuing dispute.
If you or a family member has lost his or her will, contact Stevens & Company to make an appointment and find out how to get back on track. Your family’s peace could depend on it.