Who Is Entitled to See Your Last Will and Testament?

Posted by John Crow | Sep 14, 2019 | 0 Comments

When a last will and testament is executed in Tennessee, some people want to keep it as private as possible. Others might want everyone to have a copy.
Apart from your own wishes, some people assume that they are entitled to see your last will and testament. This assumption is not true during your lifetime. While you are alive, you are the only one that is entitled to see your will. Your spouse, kids, accountants, and even lawyers are not entitled to see your will during your life. Your will is an immensely private document and you have 100% control over who may read it. However, after your death you lose that control. Upon your death, if your estate requires probate, your will becomes public. As such, anyone may walk to the courthouse and check the probate file to read your will. Apart from the public filing, there are a select group of people entitled to a personal copy. The executor or personal representative of your estate can demand a copy as well as any beneficiary or heir.

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During your lifetime, you need to make a decision as to where you will keep your will. Generally, we advise clients to find a safe place for the original will. Popular choices include a safe at home or a safe deposit box. But what about providing the original will to your executor or your estate planning attorney? Is that a good idea? In most circumstances, providing your will to the executor or your estate planning lawyer is a prudent move. Below is a brief overview why.

The Executor 

The person whom you appointed as the executor of your estate is a good choice when determining who should have your will. In fact, this a way that you can ensure no one else even knows of the will's existence. The executor can keep your will safe from all eyes and prevent others from accessing it. Additionally, there are often challenges as to finding the will at your death. If the executor already has the will, then family members will not have to scramble to find it. By providing your executor a copy, you get to have your confidentiality while alive and help make sure things go smooth upon your death.

Your Estate Planning Attorney in Tennessee

Your estate planning attorney is also a good choice to keep your original will. In most cases, the attorney will keep a copy in your file for documentation purposes, but he or she can also hang on to the original copy. Keeping the will with the lawyer ensures that your estate plan will be safe from prying eyes. The attorney has a duty of confidentiality and cannot reveal the contents of the will to anyone without your permission.

Final Word

Remember that you can always keep the will yourself and keep it secure in a safe deposit box or safe at your house. But understand that the executor or family members need to be able to find it at your death. At the very least, let your estate planning attorney and your executor know where you plan to keep your original will. If you have more questions or concerns about preserving your will, contact an estate planning attorney in Clarksville, Tennessee for answers to those concerns.

About the Author

John Crow

John Crow is the founder of Crow Estate Planning and Probate, PLC, a boutique law firm located in Clarksville, Tennessee. He has extensive experience in guiding people through the important and often complex decisions surrounding wills, trusts, conservatorships, and business formations.

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