Do I Need to Register my Will?

Updated: Oct 12

It is not mandatory to register your Will. However, registering your Will presents the following advantages:

1) A Will that is registered is assumed to be genuine and is less likely to be contested;

2) A Will that is registered is more likely to be found, hence cannot be ignored or 'misplaced' so easily and to prevent local intestacy laws to disperse your assets not according to your wishes

Commonly asked questions about Will registration 

1) What you need to consider?

2) What happens if your Will is not found?

3) How registering your Will helps?

4) How to register your Will? 

What you need to consider?

Authenticity is the foremost consideration in deciding whether or not to register your Will. A non-registered Will could have gone through undesirable alterations which will not happen if the Will is recorded somewhere safe.

A Will that has been altered might be contested and this kind of dispute may drag on for years. It is also important- that your Will is accessible as soon as possible to your executor.

In addition, a Will that is not registered can be ignored or 'misplaced' very easily. A physical paper Will can be destroyed easily and pretending that it does not exist at all. Registering your Will can prevent unauthorized incapacitation.

What happens if your Will is not found?

If your Will cannot be found, you are considered to have died "intestate" (without a will), and your assets will be distributed according to applicable laws. These laws - called intestacy laws - usually allocate assets to the deceased person's closest family members.

But even if the law gets it close - say, giving all your assets to your spouse or children, it is certain that some wishes cannot be met this way. For example, if you want specific items of property to go to certain people, that won't happen if your Will cannot be found.

Example 1:

Fred wrote a will leaving most of his property equally to his two children - one biological child and one stepchild from his second marriage who he thought of as a son, but never officially adopted. He also left his coin collection to his nephew. After his death, his children knew that he had a will, but they had no idea where it was. They searched his house thoroughly, but never found it. Because they couldn’t produce the will, Fred's estate goes to his biological child under prevailing laws. Contrary to Fred's wishes, his stepchild and his nephew got nothing.

Additionally, more people are getting international. This means you may have assets in more than 1 country. Whether it's a bank account in Australia where you were working 10 years ago, your London family home and US Stocks you were trading. Certain countries require you to have a Will based in the country where you have the assets are situated, so that your family/executor apply a court order in the respective country. Some countries do not even recognize the part of your Will dealing with assets situated in another country, which makes it even more critical to have several Wills dealing with assets situated in another country. This make it even more critical to have several Wills and register them in a centralized repository, so that they can all be found at the same time.

Example 2:

Gina lives in Singapore but has an apartment in Singapore and another one in London. She also has a bank account in Melbourne and traded stocks on the NYSE. The Singapore lawyers advised her to put her Singapore assets in one Will which they have stored in their law firm. She has other Wills capturing the other assets but she has kept them in a safe deposit box at the bank. After her death, the lawyer shared the Singapore Will but her husband is not aware of the other Wills she has kept in the safe deposit box. Eventually, only her Singapore assets were distributed to her family based on her wishes.

How registering your Will helps?

If your person of confidence or your executor cannot find your Will, having it registered will facilitate their search. They may then query available registries.

Of course, you may prefer to tell your executor and person of confidence where you stored your Will, but life happens and circumstances change. Further, you may not want your loved ones to know where your current Will is located right now, as you can decide to alter it later on.

By registering your Will, you ensure that the latest version is kept and will be found when needed.

How to register my Will?

If you decide to register your Will, you have a couple of options.

Some states and some countries run a Will Registry. A similar service is also provided by commercial will registers.

It is worth noting that, with rare exceptions, those facilities do not store the Will itself. They only allow you to record some information about your Will and charge a fee of $50 - 100 per registration (costs may vary).

Bear in mind that some countries do not recognize the part of your Will dealing with assets situated in another country. You may need a separate Will for each country where you hold assets. This means you may need to also lodge your Will or record information on your Will in multiple jurisdictions.

Moreover, if you have assets located in different geographies with different will registration systems, your person of confidence or executor will be at loss as to which Wills Registry/register to query. As a result, some or all of your wishes may not be carried out.

Writing your Will is the very first step, and it’s an important one. But that’s not enough. In the digital age, the next step is to store your Will online. Otherwise, what happens if your person of confidence is not able to find your Will in a timely manner? liteWill is the only Will registration platform that is available globally and that provides the option to store your Will online. ‘A Will that is not online is like a Will that does not exist’.

This portion of the website is for information only. The statements and opinions are the expression of their author, not of liteWill, and have not been evaluated for accuracy, completeness or changes in the law. Information contained in this article is not a substitute for tax or legal advice.

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