If you decide to register your will, you may have a couple of options. Some states allow you to register your will through the secretary of state or your local probate court. Some permit you to register the will itself – leaving the original with the court – but others only allow you to register information bout your will – most importantly, its location. Check with your local probate court to find out how it works in your county. Usually, you fill out a form, pay a small fee, and (if permitted) leave your will in a plain sealed envelope. Only your close relatives or executor will be able to access the information after your death. Another option is to use a private will registry company. These are online companies that store information about your will – usually for a fee. Like the state registries, the registry will allow only certain people to access to the information about your will after you die. You can find these registries with an internet search — “find a will registry online” should yield several options. No matter where you register your will, remember that it won’t do any good unless your loved ones know where to search for it. Make sure to tell someone — or several people — where you’ve registered your will. Or, just tell them where you keep the will itself.
Betsy Simmons Hannibal specializes in estate planning books and software. Before joining Nolo, she trained at two private law firms as well as the San Francisco Superior Court and the Federal District Court of Northern California. Hannibal is a graduate of the Honors Lawyering Program at Golden Gate University School of Law where she served as the research editor of the law review. Before law school, she worked as an AmeriCorps volunteer in Oakland, as a data analyst in San Francisco, and as an English teacher in Ecuador.