And the answer is: No. Usually. See you next week.
Okay, okay, I’ll elaborate.
Your Last Will and Testament is a confidential document while you are alive. When you pass away your Will may be Probated in a court – at which time it’s contents are publicly available – so that your estate’s assets are properly distributed to your choice of beneficiaries.
So only you and your lawyer have access to the contents of your Will. Disinherit your son? He can’t find out while you are alive. Have more assets than your family knows about? They shall continue to live in ignorance. Don’t trust third parties with access to your confidential information? No problem, nothing to see here.
But now, in an interesting twist of fate, financial advisors are asking for copies of your Will, so it may become a “part of your file.” They are, basically, saying “We would like access to all of your affairs.” And today’s financial advisor is-and-should-be the head of your financial team (a proposition I have repeatedly AGREED with) …so you figure what could go wrong?
First, you are now placing a confidential document on the server that is not required to maintain confidentiality. If you are part of a lawsuit and the plaintiff subpoena’s your financial records, the contents of your Will may be available.
Second, if you opt to change your legal documents at some point in the future and there is a Will dispute, you have now left an outdated copy of your former testamentary affairs in the public sphere. Any disinherited party may use this evidence against your estate.
Third, these advisors work for companies synonymous with the public for greed and self-enrichment: Financial companies! Yep, you are giving a financial company access to your legal documents. Typically, the only thing protecting you from these companies is the advisor, but now your documents are on the company’s server, open to the company’s search terms for additional marketing, potential sales to paying solicitors, etc.
I am aware there is a counter-argument: People tend to work with their financial advisors for many decades (see above: they are the head of your financial team), so if you ever lose your Will and no one knows who your attorney was, at least there is a record of it’s contents. However, your estate would still need to hold a Lost Will Proceeding and question the parties to the Will…provided they are even still alive (which they often aren’t), basically minimizing the primary purpose for the advisor holding onto the Will anyway. Plus, you are likely better served giving a copy of the Will to your Executor and close beneficiaries than to someone who is more likely to retire or die than you are replacing your family members and closest friends.
I have a great deal of respect for financial advisors with a conscience, and work with them daily. But I just don’t buy the argument that a Will is a part of your financial life that they should have access to. Would you give them your healthcare records? Let’s face it: Medical bills while you are alive are far more relevant than your assets when you die. I would prefer financial companies honor important documents that make a difference to you during your own life, such as Powers of Attorney, instead of fighting tooth-and-nail to unlawfully ignore them, but nevertheless holding themselves out as some honest repository of information (which they are not). Trust your financial advisor, but not his broker dealer, so don’t give him a copy of your Will.
DISCLAIMER: Attorney Advertising. Please note that prior results do not guarantee a similar outcome. This site and any information contained herein are intended for informational purposes only and should not be construed as legal advice. Seek competent legal counsel for advice on any legal matter.