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The National Will Registry—Help For Families Who Can’t Find The Original Last Will And Testament Following Death

The majority of Americans do not have an estate plan, though they may be aware of the importance of preparing for that one sure thing in life.  For many who have taken the time to deal with such a serious matter and create an estate plan, another problem commonly arises.  The surviving loved ones often cannot find the last will and testament and other important document following death.  The inability to locate a lost will can lead to some serious unintended consequences.

For example, in Florida, having only a copy of a will leads to the same legal result as the deceased never having  prepared one in the first place.  The result would be that the deceased is treated as having died “intestate,” or without a will, and state laws would decide who gets what, regardless of the harm to the family, rather than honoring that person’s wishes.

If the original last will and testament is lost, it can be a very costly problem for the surviving family.  The U.S. Will Registry ( has a way for attorneys and their clients to have access to a national database that can trace information regarding the location and the last known holder of the wills of individuals who register for this program.  The actual will is not in the database but its location may be described.

This registry will not take the place of knowing where the actual original will is kept.  There is no substitute for clear communication and instructions following the preparation of estate planning documents.  Everyone having a will prepared should make sure that their family members know where to find the original will.  Many will keep it in a safe at home or a safety deposit box at a bank.

If an estate planning attorney prepares the will, the attorney may hold the original at the client’s request.  Otherwise, it may be a good idea to share with the attorney where the will is going to kept and have the attorney note this information in the file.  It’s difficult to over-estimate the consequences of losing a will for many families.  For example, in Florida, there is no legal requirements to leave any assets to adult children.  If someone wants to make a gift in a will for adult children,  that desire would likely be voided if there is a surviving spouse standing by to take everything.

Lawyers may not list their clients on the registry without their consent and the service is completely free for attorneys to create a profile page and register their firms and clients with the U.S. Will Registry.  An added feature is that if a Will is not located an email is sent to all attorneys who are registered on the database to alert them to check their files on behalf of the family.

In order of importance, everyone should start with preparing an estate plan.  Once that’s done, if the plan involves a last will and testament (as most plans do), the next important thing to do is make sure it’s kept safe and secure while eliminating the stress for the survivors to have to search for the will.

Widerman Malek Celebration Law Office will participate in the U.S. Will Registry program for the benefit of our clients.  Contact us at 407 851-0201 for a complimentary estate planning consult.