Estate planning attorneys get asked often by their clients where their planning documents should be stored. Clients want to know the best place to keep their will, trust, power of attorney, healthcare directives or other important documents. There is not a right or wrong answer to this question but below are some things to keep I mind when deciding where to keep your documents.
- Safe Deposit Box? – There are many people who believe that safe deposit boxes at their bank are the best place to store their original estate planning documents. It can be a very secure place but keep in mind that if you have not given your spouse, child or someone else access to your box it will be difficult to open if you became incapacitated or died. A court order would need to be obtained to open the box wasting time and money. So, if you are not comfortable giving someone immediate access to your safe deposit box, you can add your revocable living trust as an additional lessee. This will give your successor trustee access to your box if you are not able to serve as trustee of your trust for some reason.
- Home Safe? – Home safes have become more popular in recent times and can be a great place to keep your estate plan. For it to be a safe place for your original documents to be kept you will want to be sure the safe is bolted to the floor, fire proof and water proof. Someone you trust needs to know the combination or know where to find the combination if you were to become incapacitated or when you die.
- Estate Planning Attorney? – In the past many estate planning attorneys would hold their client’s original estate planning documents for safekeeping without charging. But today most do not because of the liability involved. Also as the years pass by that attorney could change firms, become incapacitated themselves or die, all making the process of finding the original documents difficult.
- Corporate Trustee? – For those that have a bank or trust company as their executor or successor trustee, the documents could be stored with that organization. Banks and trust companies are going to be the best place to store your original documents. They have procedures in place to insure your original estate planning documents are safe and secure. You will still want to be sure someone knows where your documents are located.
No matter where you decide to store your original estate planning documents, make sure someone you trust knows where to find them and can get access to them. This can be a family member, trusted friend or your estate planning attorney. If your original documents cannot be located easily and quickly, it may become legally presumed that you destroyed the documents because you did not like what they said. So, it is important to make the location of the originals known to someone you trust.