This is one of those standard questions that nearly every client asks me after their will or living trust is finally executed, and it is a vitally important question. I have more than enough stories about the angst and chaos that has ensued when families cannot locate the original will after a loved one passes.
First thing's first: I'm not a fan of keeping your will in a safe deposit box at a bank even though most clients assume that is the best place. Unless you have someone else's name on the list as a signatory, it is very difficult (albeit not impossible) for someone else to gain access to the box. Also, even if the family knows that you have a safe deposit box, it is sometimes difficult for the family to determine which bank and at which branch the box is located. Those tiny, little keys don't really tell you anything, other than the fact that it opens a safe deposit box somewhere.
What I usually tell clients is that they should keep their wills wherever they keep their other important documents. That location is different for every client, but if the family knows that all of the important stuff is in your file cabinet, or a strong box, or your bottom dresser drawer, or the freezer (I did have one client who argued that that was the most fireproof place in his house) then it shouldn't be a problem for your loved ones to find your will upon your passing.
Ideally, having your will in a strong box at home (with your other important documents) is the best arrangement since such boxes are usually fireproof. But don't panic if you don't have one since the chances of a fire that completely destroys your house and everything in it are quite slim. You should also keep the box unlocked for ease of access. Trust me...a third party will have no interest in stealing your will since it has no value on the open market.
However, if you have one of those families in which good chemistry is somewhat lacking, and there are some family members who may be motivated to destroy your will, then you may have to be a little more secretive. In fact, the safe deposit box at the bank with a trusted person as a co-owner would probably be the best way to go in that type of situation.
DISCLAIMER: This blog does not offer legal advice, nor does it create an attorney-client relationship. If you need legal advice, consult with a lawyer instead of a blog.