Typically, most families have a room in their house which is allocated to be an office.
That room collects everything from the accountants’ financials, the farm periodicals, rainfall records, kids school reports, medical records, boat magazines etc. In some homes, offices can be a moving stack of papers which migrates from one free tabletop to another. Amongst all this paper, hides extremely important documents such as Wills, trust deeds, trust deed amendments, SMSF deeds, title deeds, offer and acceptances and the list goes on.
Often we have a false sense of security that these documents are safe and ‘where we left them’.
Recently a client asked that we undertake a review of their Will. To begin the process, we requested the location of the current one and the following events played out. They went to the filing cabinet and picked out the manila folder which was marked “Wills”. To their surprise it was empty.
They then rang the bank to check if they were holding a security box containing a Will. Again, there was no trace of the document. A phone call to the accountant uncovers the instructions used to draft the Wills and the firm which prepared them. The accountants report back to the client that another folder marked “Succession” has been reviewed and contains a letter indicating that the Will was being held in the law firm’s Will-keeping service.
All good you say, until we ring the law firm and are greeted by a message that says the firm has closed. A bit more research and we find that the firm had returned all the Wills they held to the registered addresses that were supplied when the Wills were deposited in their service.
Unfortunately, there are some circumstances where, for whatever reason, the address supplied is not recognised by the postal system and the mail is returned to the sender. After numerous attempts to contact the Will owners, the court approved that the lawyers destroy the Wills they still held. Unfortunately, this included the Will belonging to this particular client.
The client now has a situation where we are not reviewing a Will but instead who doesn’t have a will at all, not an ideal result.
This is a rare case, but in our experience, we have seen many examples where when documents are called upon, they cannot be located and, more often than not, those documents need to be found quickly.