ARTICLE: Why It Is Critical to Keep Your Original Estate Documents in a Safe, Secure Place

Why It Is Critical to Keep Your Original Estate Documents in a Safe, Secure Place

Are you aware of what can be addressed by an estate plan? A comprehensive estate plan does not just deal with financial assets and their passage to loved ones after an estate holder’s death, but it also addresses important health care considerations like advance directives and medical privacy releases. In any case, these plans could be rendered useless if the signed, original documents are lost, stolen or irreparably damaged.

The forward-looking nature of estate planning often means original documents will sit for years before they are needed. If a will, for example, is missing at the time of the estate holder’s death, then a legal presumption will often ensue that the will was destroyed by its creator and the intent was revoked. There is no guarantee that photocopies will be honored in probate proceedings. New costs and emotional distress among surviving family members will almost certainly apply. Let us discuss how we can avoid this unfortunate situation. 

Store original estate documents in a safe, secure location and make sure a trusted family member or a close confidant knows where they are and how to access them. This can be achieved in many ways, but the most common involve home storage, online storage, a safe deposit box, or keeping signed copies of original documents with the estate planning attorney who helped craft them, assuming the attorney would agree.

If you are going to keep the documents at home, make sure to place them in a waterproof container and store them in a high place to protect against flooding and accidental loss. Never keep important documents in your car and try to avoid storing them in a basement or garage. A locked home office file cabinet or combination safe are decent storage options, but a safe deposit box may be ideal. Bank safe deposit boxes serve as mini-vaults that can be rented in order to leverage a bank’s security advantages. Consider granting your estate’s personal representative and another trusted individual joint access.

Online document storage is a newer option that is growing in popularity. Document storage websites provide protection against common home hazards as well as access from almost any location. All you need is an account, an internet connection, and a password. Estate executors, trustees, beneficiaries, and other impacted individuals can also access the documents to better understand your explicit desires. Not everyone, however, is comfortable with putting sensitive information online due to privacy and security concerns.

For more information regarding estate planning and related matters, please feel free to contact our office to schedule a meeting. We are here to answer your questions and provide you with dependable estate planning legal support.

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We at Roth Elder Law, PLLC, believe in providing services in a way that clients can easily understand and meaningfully participate in designing and maintaining their estate plan for their loved ones, as well as be assured that their plan will be administered according to their wishes.