Is a lawyer (in CT) legally responsible to keep a copy of a will he/she prepared?

I live in CT and my Uncle just passed away. Although he had written a will (and a trust) the trust docs are accounted for with the account who will execute it but the will was either lost or distroyed by a family member who may have found it and not agreed with the terms listed within. We contacted the lawyer who drafted it and he says he has moved twice since drawing up the papers and no longer has a copy. Is he legally responsible to keep a copy in paper or on film or computer disk? I must say that it is disturbing that his wishes will not be carried out if a copy is not located....

Wallingford, CT -

Attorney Answers (2)

Scott D Rosenberg

Scott D Rosenberg

Probate Attorney - New Haven, CT
Answered

Generally speaking, attorneys frequently do, but are generally not required to, keep copies of executed documents that they drafted. Most of us will attempt to keep copies (or in the past few years, scans) of wills, but sometimes that is difficult - like if we have to travel to a client to execute the documents - and as you're noticing here, maintaining comprehensive, neatly organized records over a span of decades presents its own challenges.

It is also worth mentioning here that, under CT law, if the family knows a will was executed, but the will cannot be located amongst the decedents effects, the Will is presumed to have been intentionally destroyed by the decedent with the intent to cancel it, absent evidence to the contrary. If a person passed away following a massive house fire, for example, the probate court might be able to gather the witnesses and review the attorney's notes to "prove" the contents of the Will. Absent a situation like this, even if the attorney had retained a signed photocopy in mint condition, the Probate Court could not admit it to probate without further inquiry. You may suspect honest error or foul play, but unless you have concrete information that implicates those explanations, what your uncle's lawyer did or didn't have on file would be of little consequence.

Attorney Rosenberg is admitted to practice in Connecticut and Massachusetts, and currently practices in South-... more
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Donald Joseph Quinn II

Donald Joseph Quinn II

Probate Attorney - Kansas City, MO
Answered

Does anybody have a copy of the will? Perhaps you could ask the court to entertain a motion to admit a lost will. I suggest you ask the lawyer about this situation.

Legal disclaimer: This answer does not constitute legal advice. I am admitted to practice law in the State of... more

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