At last, you’ve completed your estate documents, including retitling assets and checking beneficiary designations. The only question left is, where should they be stored? The answer is not that simple.
Do you know where your estate plan documents are? Many people ask their estate planning attorneys to hold onto their originals. They feel like this is the best way to prevent the plans from being misplaced, and curious family members won’t be able to see their contents.
Forbes’ recent article, “Keeping Your Estate Planning Documents Safe,” explains that because of the expense of storage and the move to paperless offices, some estate planning attorneys are now having their clients hold the original documents.
This saves money for the attorney, but it leaves the client with the problem of where to put the originals.
If you need a safe and secure place for them, here are some options.
No safe deposit boxes. Avoid placing the original documents in a safe deposit box, because the authority to get into the box is inside the box! If you pass away or are incapacitated—and nobody has access to the safe deposit box—they’ll need a court order to get access. For them to get the court order, they need the documents inside the box. It’s like the chicken and the egg.
Get a fireproof safe. A fireproof safe is a great place to keep these important documents.
Make copies. Get a set of hard copies in another location that is easily accessible. You can now use the safe deposit box to hold a set of copies of your documents. Your attorney should also have a set of hard copies.
E-records. Your estate planning attorney should also have an electronic copy of your estate plan and should send you an electronic version of the documents to keep with your e-records.
Keep in mind that even if the originals are destroyed in a fire or flood, or simply lost, it isn’t the end of the estate plan. Ask your estate planning attorney about how to use a copy of a will. In most states, a copy can be probated, as long as the executor can attest to making a diligent search to find the original.
You should also remember that like taking care of your home or your car, estate planning requires tending. Every three or four years, or any time there is a big event in your life, like a birth, death, divorce or marriage, the estate plan should be reviewed. The same is true, if you move to another state.
Reference: Forbes (August 16, 2019) “Keeping Your Estate Planning Documents Safe”