It seems so obvious. Once you make an estate plan, you just keep the original documents in a safe place. The trouble is, what does a “safe place” for your estate planning documents mean? The definition of a “safe place” is often open to interpretation. With that in mind, let us share a few recommendations.
When it comes to proper storage of your will and other estate planning documents, it is suggested by many professionals that you consider keeping the originals in a home safe, as long as a trusted friend or family member has the combination. Before doing this, however, make sure that your home safe or lock box is fireproof and waterproof. You may also want to put the original documents in a secure container on an upper shelf to avoid potential flood damage.
Additionally, consider these recommendations on what to avoid when it coming to storing original documents:
- Using a safety deposit box if you are the only owner
- Hiding your original documents in an unusual place
- Keeping them any place where they are likely to be damaged in a natural disaster
Even if you take reasonable precautions, there may still be a chance that something could happen to your original estate planning documents. This is never the best outcome for you and your estate plan. This is one of the reasons why you should discuss the storage of your estate plan early on with your experienced estate planning attorney. He or she will be able to provide critical guidance on how to ensure your estate plan is protected.
The outcome will be different if no one can find the originals or any copies after you die. In that case, one potential result could be the probate court acting on the legal presumption that you never had any estate planning documents or that you deliberately destroyed them. That means your estate could be distributed in accordance with applicable laws, not in accordance with your wishes.
As estate planning lawyers, we care deeply about what happens to you and your family now and in the future. If you have any questions about your estate plan or where to keep it, please let us know. We are always happy to help.