As someone who is, albeit late to the party, working my way through Boardwalk Empire - in which during one series (no spoilers here) a character tears up their recently deceased father’s Will in order to trigger an intestacy and redirect a large inheritance their way - this article raises some very important issues.
Notwithstanding the legal and jurisdictional differences between testamentary laws of the UK and the US state of New Jersey (where Boardwalk Empire is set), a lost or destroyed Will could make life very difficult for an expectant beneficiary and indeed the executor after the testator has died.
Where a Will is lost or destroyed, the executor would have to make an application to the court for evidence of the Will’s contents to be accepted in place of the original Will. The application would have to be supported by sworn affidavits setting out all the relevant evidence concerning the missing document. However, there is no guarantee that the Probate Registry would accept that; where an original Will is missing following the death of the testator but is known to have been in the testator’s possession and there is no evidence to the contrary, then there is a presumption that the Will was revoked by the testator by destruction. In short, the Will going missing in this way could mean a costly, cumbersome and difficult process for one’s executor. As with Boardwalk Empire, it may even mean that the individual is deemed to have died intestate.
You need tell no one of the contents of your Will; it is advisable, however, to let your chosen executors know where it is stored - especially if this is at your solicitor’s office and no copy could be found at your home.
Even if you don't want your loved ones to know what's in your will until they need to, it's important that you tell them where it's kept.