In the “old days” lawyers used to keep their clients’ Last Wills in their offices. Lawyers tended to stay in their practices for decades, and people didn’t move as often as they do now. It also made it so that the client’s heirs had to go back to that attorney when the client passed away, making it likely that the client would hire the firm to probate the estate.
The problem that a lot of my clients are running into now is that the law firm that drafted their wills back in the 70′s or 80′s are closed or merged or the attorney has retired or passed away. This leaves the client on a hunt for their original estate planning documents. Sometimes we call the original firm, then we get sent over to the firm where the attorney is now, at which point we get sent back to the original firm because the attorney didn’t take their documents with them. If we are lucky, they still have the documents and can send them to my clients. If we are unlucky, we never find out where the original documents are and have to try to make due with photocopies.
If you or your parents have left the original, signed versions of your estate planning documents with the attorney who drafted them, consider calling to make sure that they still have the documents and that they are still in practice. You may also want to request that they send the documents to you so that you always know where they are. Like most things, it is better to do this before you need to since it can often take some time. In addition, if the original documents cannot be located you may still have the opportunity to draft new ones.