While I sit here waiting for the car to get washed (why do I do this on Sunday afternoon? Why?) it occurs to me that things seem to run in packs in my practice. The latest recurring theme is people needing to probate the estate of a loved one who say, in various fact patterns, "We can't find his/her original will but here's a copy, that should be okay, right?"
Very often, the answer is, "Wrong." Why? Because in Texas and many other jurisdictions, if the testator (person who made the will) was in sole and exclusive possession of the original and it can't be found after the testator dies, the law presumes that the testator destroyed or revoked it.
It's not just the will that needs to be available, it's powers of attorney, advance directives, bank and financial account numbers and passwords, insurance policies, other recurring online transaction information, property records, etc. - all the stuff that needs to be dealt with and wrapped up after you die. At the firm, we include a list of these documents with every state planning packet we prepare.
The best thing you can do for your family is to have a binder with all this information in it, ready for your personal representative to grab and go. Original documents (most importantly your will) should be in clear plastic sleeves in the binder and the binder should be stored in a secure location (could be a locked filing cabinet or firebox). Give your executor separate instructions on how to locate and access the binder (hey, make it a scavenger hunt: "check the center drawer of the desk, the combination to the lock box/key to the filing cabinet is inside"). This will ensure your most important documents are accessible and organized when your loved ones need them most.