Where is the Best Place to Store Your Original Estate Planning Documents?
After you meet with your attorney to sign your estate planning documents, you need to secure the original documents for safekeeping. In order for your representatives to act on your behalf, they need access to these original documents upon your death or incapacitation. There are several ways that you can store estate planning documents to keep them safe and secure.
Should you store your original estate planning documents in your safe deposit box?
This seems to be the perfect place to store original estate planning documents because it is secure and safe; however, this could be a mistake. A safe deposit box at a bank or other financial institution is designed to be secure and private. The way the bank or institution guarantees that the documents will remain private and secure is to limit access to your safe deposit box to you and to anyone you designate as having permission to access your safe deposit box. Unfortunately, you may not want your appointees to have access to everything in your safe deposit box as long as you are alive and able to take care of yourself and your own affairs.
If you do not designate your appointees as having permission to access the contents of your safe deposit box, the only way to do this after your death or incapacitation is to obtain a court order. This can be costly and time consuming. If you want to use a safe deposit box but do not want to grant access to the rest of the items in your box to your appointees, you may want to consider an additional safe deposit box just to store your original estate planning documents to allow access to your appointees.
Should you store your original estate planning documents in your home safe?
Having your original estate planning documents at home makes it convenient for your appointees as well as yourself because it provides easy access. However, your original documents are vulnerable to being damaged, lost, or destroyed unless they are secured in a fireproof safe and waterproof safe. The safe should be bolted to the floor to prevent someone from stealing it. You must also provide the combination or a key to someone you trust so that he or she can access the safe in the event of your incapacitation or death.
Should you ask your estate planning attorney to store your original estate planning documents?
If your attorney offers this service, it may seem like the perfect solution for securing your original estate planning documents; however, most attorneys do not offer this service today due to the liability issues involved in retaining a client’s original documents. Furthermore, it may be difficult for your family members to locate your attorney should he or she leave the firm, move, or retire.
Should you ask your corporate trustee to store your original estate planning documents?
If you have named a bank or trust company as your executor or successor trustee, this may be the best place to store your original estate planning documents. This is because banks and trust companies have specific procedures in place to insure that your original estate planning documents are stored in a safe and secure area. If you choose this option, make sure one or more of your family members know where your original documents are located.
Ensuring Your Appointees and Family Members Can Locate Your Original Documents
Regardless of how safe and secure you make your original estate planning documents, if your family and appointees cannot locate them, your final wishes may not be carried out. Therefore, you must always make sure that a trusted friend, a family member, trustee, or appointee knows exactly where you are storing your original documents and how to access those documents. This person must also have permission to access the documents if they are stored with a third party.
If your original documents cannot be located, the court will have no choice but to proceed as if you did not execute the documents. State law will apply and the court will make decisions for you. This is what you are trying to avoid with estate planning; therefore, ensure that your documents are safe, secure, and accessible.
For more information we invite you to request a consultation with the attorneys at Estate Law Partners, LLC. Their experience and knowledge can help you have the peace of mind of knowing that you have a plan.