The importance of a will cannot be overstated, as it is a critical document for Estate Planning and ensuring your wishes are followed after your passing. However, a question often overlooked is what happens to your will if your lawyer passes away?

This concern can create uncertainty and anxiety, especially if you’ve developed a trusting relationship with your lawyer. This post aims to demystify this situation, providing clarity and peace of mind on how to navigate these waters.

Understanding the Role of a Lawyer in Will Management

A lawyer’s primary role in will management is to draft the document, ensuring it complies with legal standards and truly reflects your wishes. After its creation, the lawyer may store the will, but their ongoing role is generally limited.

Many people believe that a lawyer actively manages your Will, but in reality, the document remains static unless you decide to make changes. It’s a common misconception that the lawyer’s role is perpetual; understanding this can alleviate some concerns about their untimely passing.

Your Will remains valid and effective, regardless of the status of the lawyer who drafted it.

Funeral - what happens to your will if your lawyer passes away

Immediate Steps to Take if Your Lawyer Dies

Upon learning of your lawyer’s death, it’s important to first confirm the status of your Will. Most law firms have procedures for transferring a deceased lawyer’s cases, including Wills, to other lawyers within the firm.

If the lawyer was practicing solo, their estate should have a plan for handling client documents. Your immediate step should be to contact the law firm or the executor of the lawyer’s estate to retrieve your will. It’s also a wise time to review your will, ensuring it still aligns with your current wishes.

Ensuring the Validity of Your Will

The death of your lawyer does not affect the validity of your Will. A Will is a standalone legal document that, once properly executed, remains valid until you change or revoke it.

However, it’s important to confirm that your copy of the Will is the most recent version. In cases where you can’t retrieve the original, having a copy can be sufficient, provided it meets legal requirements.

Regularly reviewing your Will ensures that it remains an accurate reflection of your wishes and circumstances.

fire proof safe

Options for Storing Your Will

When considering where to store your will, you have several options beyond your lawyer’s office. A safe deposit box is a secure choice, though accessibility to others upon your death should be considered.

Storing it with a trusted family member or another lawyer can also be a viable option, provided they are reliable and easily contactable. Some people opt for storing it at home in a fireproof and waterproof safe.

Each option has its merits and risks, and it’s essential to choose one that balances security with accessibility.

Choosing a New Estate Lawyer

Selecting a new Estate Lawyer to handle your Will is a significant decision. Look for someone with expertise in estate planning and a good reputation.

It’s important to feel comfortable and confident in their ability to handle your estate affairs and really listen and execute your final wishes.

Establishing a good rapport is as important as their professional qualifications. Don’t hesitate to interview multiple lawyers to find the right fit for your needs.

Legal Implications of a Lawyer’s Death on Your Will

The death of a lawyer handling your Will has minimal legal implications on the Will itself. The key concern is ensuring the Will’s safekeeping and accessibility.

In rare cases, if the lawyer was also designated as an executor or trustee, you’ll need to appoint a new one. This change should be made promptly to avoid any delays in the Estate Administration in executing your will. Always have a backup plan for such roles to avoid complications.

What Happens to your Will if your Lawyer Passes Away – Final Thoughts

The death of a lawyer who has drafted your Will can be unsettling, but it need not be a cause for alarm. Your Will remains valid, and there are clear steps you can take to ensure it is executed according to your wishes.

Regular reviews and updates, along with a proactive approach to estate planning, can provide peace of mind. Remember, the key is to stay informed and prepared.

Additional Resources:

Law Society of Ontario – Resources For Families or Representatives of Deceased or Incapacitated Licensees

Law Society of Ontario – Locating Wills and Documents