Throughout the natural course of the estate planning process, you’ll accumulate a number of key documents. These might include your will; a list of assets; records provided to you by your estate planning attorney; a compendium of online account logins and passwords; life insurance policies; details related to your trusts; and beyond.
A practical concern involved with estate planning is simply making sure that these documents are stored safely and securely; that you keep them well-organized, out of harm’s way, and within easy reach of the people who may one day need them (i.e. your heirs).
The question is, what are the smartest ways to safeguard your key estate planning documents?
Talk to Your Estate Planning Attorney
Many of your key documents can be stored at your attorney’s office. There are a number of forms this can take:
- Some firms, especially older ones, still make use of wall-mounted safes and deposit boxes.
- Others may opt for fireproof filing cabinets.
- Some attorneys may make use of secure offsite storage facilities.
Always ask your attorney about the storage options they provide, and don’t hesitate to ask follow-up questions about exactly where your documents will be kept, how they will be protected, and what you need to do to access them.
If you do store your documents with the law firm, make sure you alert your family members to their location.
Store Your Documents at Home
Even if your attorney holds onto the original documents, you’ll probably want to keep copies. One option is to get a safe deposit box at the local bank, but that’s something we’d recommend against.
Why? Because your heirs will need legal authority to get into your safe deposit box… and often, the authority they need is included in those estate planning documents! The only way out of this chicken/egg conundrum is through a court order, and that can be dicey.
Instead, we’d recommend getting a simple fireproof box or safe that you can keep in your home. Again, the most important thing is that you tell your heirs where the box is located, and ensure you leave the combination for accessing the safe!
Embrace the Cloud
You can also scan copies of your documents and store them in a safe, cloud-based environment. There are a number of reputable and secure cloud services that you can access for free, including Google Drive, Dropbox, etc.
Once again, the crucial thing is ensuring you leave clear instructions for your heirs to access these documents as needed.
What if You Lose Your Documents?
Some individuals begin to worry over the loss of their original documents. This actually may not be as big a deal as you think; in many cases, photocopies work just as well as originals.
Additionally, if you realize your original documents have gone missing, you can always talk with your estate planning attorney, who can propose some solutions. It may not be very difficult to simply get a new version of the missing document.
Speak with an Estate Planning Attorney
Whether you’re ready to talk about document storage or you need to get the wheels rolling on your estate plan, Singh Law Firm is here for you.
Our attorneys have years of experience providing for the estate planning needs of individuals and families throughout California, and we’d love to speak with you about your questions or needs.
Contact Singh Law Firm today to set up a consultation for your estate planning documents.