Should I give original Will to beneficiary ?

Here’s scenario…
I am recently widowed so I am making a Will and changing my life insurance beneficiary etc. since my husband was the beneficiary and is now gone.
I have a step daughter (his grown daughter) whom I am not that close too and frankly my best friend has been more help and more kind to me when my husband died then my step daughter.
I have no other immediate family members living.

I plan on leaving ALL my assets ( money and house) to this best friend. I live alone and am afraid if I were to drop dead someone should have all my Will information etc. My step daughter has keys to my house that her father gave her in case he had an emergency and someone needed to get in the house. But now I have an alarm and she does not have the code. My fear is that if I kept the original Will in my important paper work box here at home if I died she would get in the house first and find the Will and see that nothing was left to her and she would just destroy it. I have no attorney, do not need one and made my own Will which is legal in Calif…so leaving the Will with an attorney is not an option.

Therefore, since I am leaving everything to my best friend would it not be easier and best if I just give her the original of the Will that she could file with the Court if I died ?

Thanks for the input…

Who is named executor/executrix?

This is not a pleasant job, so don’t think you’re doing the person a favor.

Give the friend a copy of the Will, but put the original in a safe deposit box and inform all of the existence of the box.
Note that, unless you open the box in both your and your executor’s name, the bank should not open the box without a Court order (my easily wrong) understanding.

Note: it is possible to pass on one’s estate in CA without going through Probate - and I suggest you find out how to do so.

Why do you not need a lawyer? Most lawyers whom I know do wills at a reasonable flat rate; and further, know how to word wills so as to minimize challenges by people whom the testator has intentionally left out. And, they keep a copy safely in their vault, far from vindictive stepdaughters. :slight_smile:

Anyway. You have made what is known as a holographic will, which is one you write yourself. Make sure it complies with California state law for holographic wills: see here, and note specifically s. 6111:

In other words, write it out in your own handwriting. It will be invalid if you compose it on your computer and print it out. I’d suggest writing two copies, word-for-word. Put one in a safe-deposit box at the bank, and give the other to your friend.

But I still think a lawyer is the best option for you. The California Bar Association should be able to refer you to a lawyer in your location who can do wills at a reasonable cost.

No I did not make a holographic Will (handwritten)…the Will form (Statutory Form) that I used was right on the State of California Bar Association website and I printed it out, made my choices and designated a beneficiary , signed and had two witnesses sign it.

No I did not make a holographic Will (handwritten)…the Will form (Statutory Form) that I used was right on the State of California Bar Association website and I printed it out, made my choices and designated a beneficiary , signed and had two witnesses sign it.

Yeah. I think I’d still consult a lawyer; or if you insist on doing it yourself, do it in handwriting, in accordance with s. 6111. I’m a lawyer myself, though not in California, and I’ve had more than a few clients who are beneficiaries of an estate. Sadly, some of them have found out the hard way that the testator’s “Internet will” was absolutely invalid, and they had to spend a lot of time and money dealing with courts, public trustees, and–yep, you guessed it–lawyers.

But you are, of course, free to proceed however you like.

If you anticipate a challenge to your will from an aggrieved relative, then not taking legal advice in preparing and executing the will looks like a false economy, to be honest.

But the answer to your question is, you can give the original will to anyone you like. It should be someone you trust, and it should be someone you is likely to survive you. Then give a photocopy of your will to your friend who is the beneficiary (and also, I assume, the executor) and tell him who has the original (and tell the person holding your will that the beneficiary/executor knows that it has been given to him). That way, when you pop your clogs, there’ll be one person that you trust who has your will, and another person who knows where it is, and who has both an interest and a duty in seeing that it gets put into effect.

Just FYI: Effective Jan 1, 2016, California now allows “transfer on death deeds.” You can file a form with your county naming the person to whom your real estate will transfer upon your death. You can change it at any time and the person you name has no rights to or control over your property until after you die.

The beneficiary automatically gets your home upon your death. No need to go through probate and very few hassles for the beneficiary. Consider it.

You can basically do the same transfer-on-death thing with bank accounts, securities and vehicles in a lot of states, and you can name the person you want as the beneficiary on your retirement accounts. This way they don’t have to wait for probate. I plan to do this for my son. I think somebody will have to get a bunch of copies of your death certificate to make it all happen though.

Moderator Action

Since this involves advice and legal opinions, let’s move it to IMHO.

Moving thread from General Questions to In My Humble Opinion.

I know nothing about the law where you are, but I thing that anywhere in the world, this situation could end badly if not correctly handled.

As stated above; if you want to be sure that your friend is not going to have to face legal challenges with associated expense and hassle, get the will drawn up by a professional. You should also consider the tax implications.

I’m curious why you are asking questions of an anonymous message board, and yet say you don’t need a lawyer.

By asking questions, you seem to me to be indicating that you need advice about a potentially complicated issue, involving your estate.

The best people to give that advice are lawyers trained in the law with experience in probate and estate matters in your state, not a bunch of well-meaning but untrained folks on the Internet.

I think you should seek legal advice from a lawyer.

Why haven’t you asked for the key to be returned, and/or changed the locks?


I’m so sorry for your loss. You didn’t say how recently widowed, but I remember that for months after my husband died, I could not think clearly about financial matters. And I was the one who handled all of our finances. The death of your spouse is a huge, traumatic shock to your world and to your own mind, heart, and body. Don’t underestimate the impact.

If you have a stepdaughter who you seriously think would DESTROY your will, then you need ironclad protection. Suggest you consult a lawyer who specializes in wills. Tell him/her what you want to accomplish. Don’t saddle your friend with an onerous chore after your death.

Yes. If you can’t trust this woman, change your locks.

Change the locks. She could have copied the key.

Unless she has a copy of a prior will (of yours) that leaves anything to her, I’m pretty sure that wouldn’t do her any good - I don’t think stepchildren are beneficiaries if a stepparent dies intestate. Your assets would go to your own children (not an issue, I gather), your siblings, your parents, other blood relatives via some prescribed rules.

If your late husband had a will that left something to her conditionally (e.g. “my wife has use of the house until her death, then daughter gets it”) then your own will wouldn’t be able to override that.

So, stepdaughter destroying your real will wouldn’t benefit her beyond causing mischief.

That said, I’d definitely keep the real will in your safety deposit box, and give a copy of it either to the friend, or to someone who would be acting as your beneficiary.

Another option is to set up a revocable living trust, naming your friend as the successor, then transfer all your assets to that trust. I don’t know how such a trust works for things like household items, jewelry etc., but for the house and financial instruments, it can basically eliminate the hassle of probate.

Your situation is just the reason why you SHOULD consult a lawyer. You should know beforehand that more that likely your will will be contested and you do not want any loopholes where an unintended (potential) benefactor might stick their grubby little hand in. Also, I would make sure your executor has a copy of the will and knows what your wishes are. By the way, your benefactor can be the executor (at least in Texas). As for telling the step-daughter, I probably would not tell her any details other than it is your friend who is the executor of your will. No point in starting the fight before you are dead.

How much life insurance are you talking about? If it’s whole life, why not cash that sucker out and live a little more before you die. If it’s a term life policy, hopefully it’s not more than enough to cover the cost of your burial, etc.

Here in Minnesota, you can file a sealed copy of your will with the County Clerk. That copy is kept safe by them, and after your death is available only to the executor of your estate. Do they have this in California?

I don’t see how a stepdaughter would have any claim. Even if the will were destroyed, she would not be an heir. That said, IANAL. I suggest you consult with one.