The Probate Pro recommends that you store a Last Will and Testament and other estate planning documents in the most logical, safe, and secure place. The most important thing to remember when deciding where to store a Will is to safeguard it but not to hide it from everyone. Hiding it means that no one may ever find it. Remember to notify the at least one responsible person (usually the nominated personal representative) of the Will’s whereabouts. Some options include storing it with your other important paperwork, having your attorney retain it, storing it in a safe place, depositing it in a safe deposit box or lock box. Another option is to keep a Will for safekeeping with the probate court.
Can I check to see if someone has a Will stored at the probate court during their lifetime?
Wills stored for filing with the probate court are not public records during the testator’s lifetime. Therefore, your Will and any information regarding your Will, Will not be released to anyone except you or a person you designate. If you are unable to present yourself personally, you may request your Will by filing the SCAO form PC 548 – Authorization to Release Will Held for Safekeeping.
An original Will for safekeeping is considered a permanent court record.
Can I check to see if someone has a Will stored at the probate court after their death?
Wills on file for safekeeping with the probate court remain with the court after the death of the testator.
Whether has been deposited with a probate court is confidential information. However, the probate court that has previously stored a Will, Will allow access to this information upon death of the person who signed the Will, and upon presentation of a death certificate.
After the death of the testator and at the first session of the court after the court receives notice of the testator’s death, the Will shall be publicly opened and retained by the court.
After the death of the testator, if jurisdiction of the Will for probate belongs to a court in another county, upon request of the personal representative named in the Will or another person interested in its provisions, the Will shall be forwarded by registered mail to the other court or delivered to the personal representative, or to some other person interested in the provisions of the Will, to be presented for probate in the other court.
Which county probate court should I search?
It is important that you check each probate court in which the person may have resided. For example, a search of the Wayne County Probate Court Will not reveal a stored Will in the Oakland County Probate Court. You must be a resident of that specific county to have the authority to deposit your Will at that county probate court.
How do I deposit my Will with the probate court?
Your Last Will and Testament may be deposited by you or by someone under your direction.
Your Will should be placed in a sealed wrapper (envelope). Most probate courts provide “Will envelopes” for your convenience. The following information should be printed on the outside of the envelope:
- Your name, your address, and your identification number (either a social security number or Michigan driver’s license number)
- Date delivered
- Name of the person who delivered the Will
Please note that there is a $25.00 deposit fee payable to the probate court. After it is filed, you Will be given a receipt with the Will identification number.
Can I retrieve a Will that I previously deposited?
MCL 700.2515(2) provides that during the lifetime of the testator (person signing the Will), the Will shall be delivered only to the testator, or to some person authorized by the testator in writing that is duly proved by the oath of a subscribing witness.
During your lifetime, you may retrieve your Will at any time. However, there Will be a $25 fee each time your Will is re-deposited.
To retrieve your Will, you must present your Will receipt, if available, and personal identification (either your driver’s license or state ID card).
If you are unable to present yourself personally, you may request your Will by mail. However, you must complete and forward SCAO form PC 548 – Authorization to Release Will Held for Safekeeping, to the court before your Will is released.
Can I petition the probate court to search for a Will located in a safe deposit box?
The court may order the opening of a safe deposit box pursuant to MCL 700.2517(2)
An interested person must petition the probate court using the SCAO form PC 551 (PC 551, Petition and Order to Open Safe Deposit Box to Locate Will or Burial Deed). If approved by the probate court the order provides that if an alleged Will or deed to a burial plot is found in the box, the person named in the order must deliver the documents to the probate court.
What needs to be filed after the opening of the safe deposit box?
Within seven days, all those in attendance at the opening of the safe deposit box must present to the court form PC 552, Safe Deposit Box Certificate and Receipt. This form indicates whether a Will and/or deed to a burial plot were found and that no other items were removed from the safe deposit box. This form also serves as a receipt for a Will and/or deed to a burial plot.
Can a Court appointed fiduciary (personal representative) open a safe deposit box?
A court appointed fiduciary may open a safe deposit box and remove its contents. However, if the safe deposit box is jointly leased, the fiduciary may only examine the contents in the presence of an officer or employee of the financial institution. At the time of opening the safe deposit box, all individuals in attendance must execute a written statement certifying what was removed by the fiduciary. Within seven (7) days, the fiduciary must serve the joint lessee with a copy of the certified statement. A surviving joint lessee of a joint safe deposit box generally has full access to the safe deposit box.
When must I deliver another person’s Will in my possession Will to a probate court?
MCL 700.2516 provides that regardless of where a Will is stored, upon death, your Will must be delivered to the probate court of your county of residence. If your Will is not stored with the court, the custodian or person having possession of the Will must deliver it (personally or by registered mail) to the probate court with reasonable promptness upon your death. A person who neglects to promptly deliver your Will (without reasonable cause) is liable for damages. A person who Willfully refuses or fails to deliver your Will after being ordered by the court to do so is guilty of contempt of court and subject to penalty for contempt (fine or jail).
Once the county probate court receives proof of death for an individual who has a Will deposited for safekeeping, it becomes public record.
Where should I store my Will?
Some people will keep a Will at home in a lock box, under a mattress, or in a safe. Others store a Will for safekeeping at the probate court or in a safe deposit box. It can be frustrating finding a Will after someone has died. Most importantly, do not hide your Will or make it difficult to find after you have died!