Where do you keep your Will?
Many people ask their attorney to hold the original documents of their estate plan. This prevents the plan from being misplaced at home and keeps it away from prying family members. However, this can be a problem if the lawyer dies, gets disbarred, or is in a firm that breaks up.
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 keep your will, here are some options.
For a Will, use the local Register of Wills. We use this as our first choice. For a nominal fee, they keep the will private and secure. It is not a public record until you die and the probate is filed. If the family is told this, they will find the will. You can’t lose it, write on it, or accidentally revoke it. This is highly recommended.
No safe deposit boxes. Avoid placing the original documents in a safe deposit box, unless your backup person is a signer on the account. A safe deposit box is an account. Without that, we need a court order to get 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.
We create a nice looking burgundy and gold binder for all your documents. We suggest keeping it on your coffee table, with our cards, so when friend come over, you can say “Do you have one of THESE from the Downs Law Firm?”
Just kidding. We suggest a private area, like your bedroom closet, that is not too big to search when documents are needed.
Don’t lose it. If the originals are misplaced or destroyed, or if the original documents somehow vanish, your family may still be able to use a set of copies. For instance, a photocopy of a will can be probated once the executor has attested that she has made a diligent search to find the original and it hasn’t turned up.
Remember that this isn’t a “one and done” task. You should review your documents every few years to make certain the people you’ve named in them are still alive and your intentions haven’t changed. Wherever you keep your will, let your successor decision-makers know this.
Reference: Forbes (August 16, 2019) “Keeping Your Estate Planning Documents Safe”