Some states require that an original will be submitted to probate or restrict the circumstances when a copy can be produced instead. What happens when the original will has been lost?
It is always a good idea to keep the original copy of your will safe and secure. In some states the original has to be produced for the will to be used in probate. In other states the original might not always be necessary, but the circumstances when a copy of the will can be used are restricted.
For this reason, many people choose to have their lawyers keep the original copy of the will. When they pass away, the attorneys can then produce the original will.
In a recent Napa Valley Register column entitled "Is lost will still valid?," a couple wrote in to ask what would happen to their will. They left it with the attorney who drafted it for them. The attorney, however, had retired and the couple had no idea what happened to their will or how to find the attorney to ask.
While the advice given was specific to California, it is generally good advice anywhere in the U.S. in this type of situation.
Attorneys are required to keep their files even after they retire. The normal practice is to have another attorney take care of the client files and to inform the state bar association of the arrangement.
Therefore, this couple should call the bar association and make inquiries. If that does not produce the whereabouts of the will, the couple can always get a new will or hope the probate court will accept a copy of the will at the appropriate time.