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Keeping your important documents safe

Most of us have some important documents like an original will or a power of attorney. If you keep these documents at home, there is a risk of loss if you are burgled, or of damage by flooding or fire.

Many people choose to store their original wills with their bank. Some banks charge for this service. Banks do not always provide a reliable service as wills can still be mislaid by them.

If the will is stored in a safe deposit box with the bank, the bank will not let the executor open the box and collect the contents until they have a grant of probate. As you need the original will in order to apply for the grant of probate, this can cause a lot of problems.

The Financial Times revealed that Lloyds Bank have recently discovered a large collection of old wills which it could not match to customers. They had to assume that the people who made these wills have already died and their estates have been distributed.

If the customer had not made a subsequent will, then their family would have assumed that they had not made a will and their estate would have been distributed in accordance with the statutory intestacy rules. This is legislation which divides your estate between your spouse, children and next of kin.

The lost wills may have included legacies to other people, instructions on how valuables should be divided and many other provisions which would have benefited their loved ones and was not covered by the intestacy rules. Large sums of money and valuable assets may have now passed to the wrong beneficiaries. Lloyds will be paying compensation to those who have lost out.

When someone dies, we ask the relatives to search the house for a will. If a will is not found, we check with the Deceased’s banks to see if they hold a will. In this case, Lloyds advised the families incorrectly that no will was held by them.

Many firms of solicitors provide a free wills storage service. At Hodge Jones & Allen we have a fireproof vault for wills and other important documents. Our clients keep a copy of the will. We include the firm’s name on the copy will, so the original will can be easily traced when needed.