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Proper file storage can avoid probate litigation

6/19/2015 | Kaplin Stewart Blog

When planning one’s estate, most Pennsylvania residents feel certain that their heirs will not fight with one another over the provisions laid out within those documents. This, however, is never a given, and there are many cases in which families fall into contention after a parent or grandparent dies, which often leads to a legal battle. One of the best ways to protect against probate litigation is to properly store all estate planning paperwork, so that one’s wishes are clearly documented.

One issue that can lead to conflict is when an individual creates one set of estate planning documents, but later drafts new versions that are meant to update or revise the old. If the most recent documents are not able to be located, the individuals who are included within the first set will have a strong legal case to have those documents honored. In order to avoid this outcome, additional steps must be taken.

To begin, individuals who create new or updated estate planning documents should include a statement within the new version that directly addresses any previously existing paperwork. It should be stated that the new version is intended to eliminate any provisions laid out within earlier versions. By having this statement in place, it becomes far more difficult for individuals to contest the new documents in court.

Proper storage of estate planning documents is also essential to ensuring a favorable outcome. Documents can be stored with one’s attorney, and all pages should also be scanned and stored in file format. Files can be stored on a cloud-based service, or on removable storage devices such as a disk or external drive. Finally, Pennsylvania residents should speak with their intended heirs about how and where to locate these documents when the time comes, which can also help avoid probate litigation.

Source:, “Estate Planning: Safeguarding original copies is critical“, Larry Deason, June 8, 2015