Having a thorough, lawfully crafted estate plan is critical for your care and legacy. So, once you have your estate planning documents, you need to keep them safe and accessible.
First, pick a safe place to store your estate planning documents in your home. This should be in a fire-proof box or well-organized file in your records. Keeping your original estate planning documents in your home makes them relatively easy to locate.
If you do not want to store your documents at home, your attorney may keep the originals stored safely for you at his or her law firm. However, this is not recommended, because your attorney may pass away, his or her law firm may change locations, or the firm may go out of business before you need to access your documents. You could store your documents with a trusted relative, but this option also invites risk and could limit accessibility.
Do not use a bank safety deposit box to store your documents. Bank safety deposit boxes are extremely difficult for your executor or agents to access, due to stringent state regulations and extra precaution banks take to prevent fraud. It could take months and incur extra expense for your executor or agent to retrieve documents from a bank safety deposit box. This is valuable time that will delay fulfilling your goals and objectives.
After securing your documents, inform your fiduciaries about the location of your documents. Your Will appoints an executor to manage your estate, and your health care and financial powers of attorney appoint agents to act on your behalf in those areas. These people should know where to locate the original copies of each document, if needed.
[Note: Your executor will need your original Will to process your estate after you pass away but copied documents will suffice for your health care and financial agents. You should provide these agents with copies once you have them].
These two steps – storing your estate planning documents in your home and informing your agents of the documents’ location – will keep them safe and accessible for use.