3 Safe Ways to Store Your Estate Planning Documents

Estate planning is an essential part of preparing for the future. No one truly knows how much time they have, but everyone wants to ease the suffering of their loved ones when they’re gone.

The last thing you want is for a spouse, parents, or children to have to fight over who gets what, or worse, lose assets during probate because you failed to make a plan that spells out your wishes and protects against claims from creditors and others. 

In other words, it’s never too soon to meet with a qualified estate planning lawyer to discuss your future goals and end-of-life wishes.

Once you complete your estate plan, you need to make sure the original documents are safely stored. Since copies are not considered valid if the original is lost, it’s imperative that you preserve original estate documents for the benefit of heirs. What’s the best way to store these crucial documents?

1. Home Filing Cabinet or Safe

Your home is probably a safe enough place to store documents. You’ll have to consider the potential for situations like fires, floods, or break-ins that could result in documents being lost, but by and large, you can store important documents at home if you secure them properly.

A filing cabinet in your home office, especially one with a lock, is not a bad option, as this is likely the first place someone will look for such documents in the event of your death. A home safe is another good option. Ideally, documents should be stored in a fireproof safe box, just in case a fire occurs and you don’t have time to grab documents.

2. A Safe Deposit Box

If you have any concerns about the safety of your documents at home, you may want to set up a safety deposit box at your preferred local bank. Maybe fires are common in your area or you have family members you simply don’t trust. Perhaps you just don’t want to take any chances with such important documents.

Whatever the case may be, you’ll gain peace of mind when you turn safe storage over to a secure banking facility. 

As an added benefit, you can store other valuable documents with your estate plan, such as certificates (birth, death, marriage, divorce), Social Security cards, and home and auto deeds. 

You can also store tangible assets like jewelry, small collectibles, cash and bonds, and sentimental items like old family photos that are irreplaceable.

3. With Your Estate Planner

Some people prefer to have total control over their original estate planning documents, along with easy access. Others would rather entrust them to the estate planner who drew them up. It’s very common to have an estate planning firm hang on to your documents for safekeeping, eliminating the worry that you might somehow lose them.

Keeping Important People in the Loop

It’s wise to keep a copy of your estate plan handy for reference, even though it won’t suffice for legal purposes. You may also want to give copies to key people of interest, such as heirs, executors, or trustees. This will help ensure a smooth transition when you’re gone.

Regardless of where you choose to store your original estate planning documents, you need to let certain people know where they can find them in the event of your death. At the very least, your spouse, children, or other primary heirs should know where to look or who to contact. 

Without original documents, your estate will be considered intestate and go to probate, likely upending your final wishes.

If you’re an Orange County, CA, resident in need of legal advice and estate planning services, contact the capable and experienced lawyers at OC Wills & Trust Attorneys now to get started.

Brian Chew, the managing partner of OC Wills & Trust Attorneys, has extensive experience in the areas of estate planning, asset protection planning, business succession planning, long-term care planning, and veterans’ benefits. By devoting his practice to estate planning matters, he has founded a firm that strives to provide exceptional service to their clients by working closely with individuals and their families to create comprehensive and customized estate plans. For the past twenty five years, Brian has served thousands of clients in the matters of estate planning, wills and trusts. If you have any questions about this article, you can reach Brian Chew here.