I Have Signed My Estate Planning Documents, Now What?
Congratulations! You have signed your estate planning documents, so now what? Now, you need to put them somewhere, and that decision can be more complicated and important than you may think. When deciding where to put your estate planning documents consider these two important factors: where can my family access the documents and where will the documents be safe?
1. Where can your family access your estate documents?
Whether you have physical or digital copies of your estate documents, it is important to keep the original copies. Duplicate copies can create trouble for you or your loved one trying to enforce the document in court. With this in mind, many clients instinctively think their safety deposit box is the best place to keep their estate planning documents. However, this can create serious access issues for your family. Banks have very strict policies about who may access a safety deposit box. If the person who needs to get to your power of attorney or will does not have access to the box, they will have to go to court to obtain the document. Even if that person is able to access your safety deposit box, the bank may not be open at the time they need to access it. For example, if you are in an accident at eight in the evening and the hospital needs to see your power of attorney but the bank does not open until nine the next morning. It may seem counter intuitive but a safety deposit box does not allow your family to easily access your estate documents.
2. Where will the documents be safe?
The best place to keep your estate planning documents is in a secure location at home. If you already have a safe or fire-proof box in your home, those are excellent options. Just remember that it is important that your decision makers know where your documents are stored and how to access them in case of an emergency. If you do not have a safe or fire-proof box, another option to consider is your freezer. Place your documents inside a large freezer bag and store them next to the Blue Bell. As off-the-wall as this may seem, your freezer is generally fire proof, water proof, and will float in the event of a flood. So, your freezer is safe and is easy for your family to get to incase of an emergency.
Finally, remember to secure your documents in the event of a move, especially if you are leaving your freezer behind!