Recent events have encouraged more people to create new Power of Attorney, Will, and Trust documents. It has also prompted people to update legal documents that are old and outdated. Having these documents in place is an important step in preparing your Estate for your loved ones. These documents will enable your friends and family to care for you in your time of need and to settle your Estate more easily. It could also help them to reduce taxes and probate costs. It is a wonderful final gift to give your heirs but, it will not help them if they do not have access.
Several years ago, a client came to me with a problem. She was named as the Power of Attorney for a member of her family. She knew exactly where to find the necessary documents. They were in a safe deposit box. She had the key and she knew what bank to go to. When she got there, she was told that she could not access the box because she was not the owner. They assured her that it would not be a problem if she was the Power of Attorney. They asked her to present the documents, but she could not because, of course, they were in the safe deposit box. Many days passed and time and money were lost acquiring new documentation that would allow her to get into the box. In the end, she was able to get in, but it would have been much faster, easier, and less expensive had she been able to reach a copy of the legal documents without going into the safe deposit box.
After this event, I started to think about where I kept my important legal documents and what recommendations I give to my clients. If a safe deposit box is not the best place to keep your important legal documents, where should you keep them?
By their very nature, these documents must be accessed quickly and easily. But they are also important legal documents that need to be stored in a safe and secure location that is not vulnerable to fire, flood, or theft. I created a list of possible locations to store your original documents and copies of the originals as well.
- Your Attorney’s office – Your Attorney may be willing to hold the original copies of your estate documents. This is a good first option for the original documents.
- Fireproof Safe – If your Attorney is unable to store your original documents or if you prefer to keep them yourself, invest in a good fireproof safe that will protect them.
- File Cabinet – Original copies of Estate documents should not be kept in a traditional file cabinet in your home but, that is a good place to store a copy of the original.
- Digital Vault – Many of us are going paperless these days. It is a good idea to have a digital copy of your Estate documents that you or your loved ones can access in times of need. All clients of our firm have the option to store their legal documents in the electronic vault in their Wealth Plan. We have helped many families to access these documents in times of need.
- Safe Deposit Box – While it is unwise to keep the originals in a safe deposit box, it is a good location to keep a copy, especially if some of the items in the box are listed in the Will. It will make clear your intentions for the distribution of these items.
Your Estate documents are some of the most important documents that you will ever create and every one of us will need them at least once in our lives. That is why it is important review them regularly to see if you need to make any changes. Storing them in a good location will help to ensure that they are accessible when needed.
Once you have decided where to store these documents, you need to tell the appropriate people where to locate them. You should tell at least two people where the documents are in case the primary representative is unable or unwilling to act in a time of need.
- Tell your spouse, Executor, Power of Attorney, and one contingent person where to locate your Estate documents.
- If they will need a key or password, make sure that they have access to the key or know the password. If you change your lock or password, tell them so they can still access your Estate documents.
- Consider giving a copy of your Estate documents to your Executor or Power of Attorney.
- If you have stored your Estate documents electronically, consider giving access to your Executor or Power of Attorney. Electronic document vaults may give you the ability to share selected documents while keeping the rest private.
- Give your Financial Advisor, Accountant, Attorney, etc. a list of those people who you have listed as Power of Attorney and/or Executor. Give contact information to all parties so they will be able to get in touch with each other if they need to.
- Consider introducing your Power of Attorney and Executor to the important professionals in your life such as your Financial Advisor, Accountant, Attorney, etc. It will help if they have met prior to a stressful life event such as a serious illness or death.
- Consider having an Estate Drill to ensure that all parties involved are aware of their responsibilities. This will also give you time to ask and answer questions so your wishes can be fulfilled when the time comes.
It is never fun to think about these difficult life issues. No one wants to imagine a time when you would need the help of a Power of Attorney or Executor but, we will all need them some day. With good advanced planning, you can help to ensure that your wishes are followed. You will also make a challenging time easier on those you care about.
If you would like to discuss our services or would like to know how we use electronic vaults to help our clients, call and we can discuss the services that we provide. We are not Attorneys, but we have worked with many clients and Attorneys to help our clients prepare for their future.
The opinions voiced in this material are for general information only and are not intended to provide specific advice or recommendations for any individual. All investing involves risk including loss of principal. No strategy assures success or protects against a loss.
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