Don’t Write on Your Original Documents!
You’ve put it off for years, but you have finally bitten the bullet and gotten your Last Will and Testament completed by a local attorney. The day comes and you go to the local attorney’s office to sign on the line above your name in front of 2 witnesses and a notary public. Then you head home with your original Last Will and Testament in tow feeling so proud of yourself for finally getting this done. A weight has been lifted off you now that you know your treasured belongings will be inherited by the people you love.
STOP! DON’T DO IT!
Down the road you find yourself sitting at the kitchen table reviewing the decisions you made. You may be tempted to mark up your original Will by making a little change here or adding a notation there. STOP! DON’T DO IT! I am here to warn you against the urge to write on any original estate planning document.
By writing on your original document, such as your Will, Trust, Power of Attorney or Healthcare Proxy, you alter it and could unwittingly revoke it in whole or in part. You may think your innocent markings on your Will are no big deal, but when you die it is the duty of the Court to interpret the meaning of those markings and the result may not be in line with your intention. When you crossed out your brother’s name were you revoking the bequest to him, updating his name or revoking the entire document?
Can’t I Just Make the Change by Myself?
People often have the incorrect assumption that when they want to make a change to their Last Will and Testament, they need only to cross out what was there previously, and hand write in what they now want. This is wrong! When you cross out that paragraph regarding who is inheriting your house, you revoke that entire paragraph of your document. That new paragraph you hand write to replace it is not binding because it was not properly executed. These changes you make to your Last Will and Testament may seem minor, but they are anything but and can have lasting consequences.
Find a Safe Location
Once you have your precious Last Will and Testament, maybe a Trust, and your Durable Power of Attorney in place make sure you store them in a safe location where they can not be damaged by water or fire. It is important also to let your family know where your documents are and allow access to them in the event that your situation changes without warning. Although it is certainly a great idea to store everything at your safe deposit box at the bank, if your kids are not listed on the safe deposit box as joint owners, they will not be able to access the box, or worse, they may not even know that it exists!
Finally, remember, never write on your documents, never hole punch your documents, and never store them in a location so secret that even Sherlock Holmes couldn’t deduce where they are.