An original document (versus a hard copy or electronic copy) is less meaningful to people who regularly deal with digital documents and electronic signatures. People growing up in a digital age do not always connect the importance of having possession of the actual document that a person signed with a pen! However, the original Last Will and Testament is still very important. Here is what you need to know about an original will.
- Michigan law requires that the person who has the original will and any codicils (amendments) to it must file the original with the probate court having jurisdiction after the testator (person who signed it) passes away. It should be sent in with a copy of the death certificate. It then becomes a public record so that it may be accessed and viewed by persons who may be interested in the contents of it.
- The law requires that someone who does not file such documents with the probate court without reasonable cause is liable for any damages caused by not filing it. If someone refuses to file these documents after a court order is issues, they will be guilty of contempt of court and subject to a penalty.
- You have the option to file your will with the probate court during your lifetime for a small fee charged by the court. The court will take on the responsibility for the safe keeping of the original will. The will should be enclosed in a sealed wrapper to maintain its confidentiality. This option could be very helpful for people who want to make sure that nobody tampers or destroys this important document. Further, this could be helpful for people that end up in a nursing home and are not involved in the process of selling their home. This could also be helpful for people who don’t have trusted relatives or friends that will ensure the safe-keeping and honoring of their wishes.
If you took possession of a deceased person’s important papers be sure to file the original will with the appropriate probate court. For your own planning, consider whether it makes sense to put the original will on file with the probate court so that you can be sure your wishes will be honored if your estate goes through probate.