What can be done if someone in possession of a will refuses to file it with probate court? A named executor or an heir may ask the court to order the individual in possession of the will to produce it for the court.

There are at least three very bad things that can happen to you if you intentionally hide a will:

  1. You can go to jail
  2. You can be sued for damages by anyone who has been injured because of the concealment
  3. You can lose all property rights conveyed in the will

What if you’re not trying to hide anything, but you simply can’t find the will? Typical wills are labeled with a title such as “Last Will and Testament” or “Will of John T. Smith.” If a lawyer prepared it, it might be stapled to a stiff piece of colored paper or in a thick envelope with the printed label “Will,” explains nolo.com. Whoever takes possession of the will, of course, has a legal responsibility to promptly turn it over to the local probate court.

It’s almost impossible to prove that a person has concealed or destroyed a will unless someone actually saw him or her doing it, remarks Alexander A Bove, Jr., author of The Complete Book of Wills, Estates, & Trusts.

Obviously our clients at Rebecca W. Geyer & Associates want to make sure their affairs can be settled with none of the mystery or additional stress on the executor that can result from missing documents.  Many request that we keep their documents in order to avoid both disputes among heirs and additional stress on the executor. We retain the originals in a fireproof area, and we keep electronic copies backed up at fifteen minute intervals.

Where there’s a will, it’s a crime to conceal it. And, where there are any estate planning documents, it’s an enormous kindness to survivors to make sure they can be easily located.