More than likely, it took you some time to create an estate plan with which you, and perhaps your family, are satisfied. You made the best choices you could when it came to distribution of your assets and choosing the people who would represent your interests.
Now that you no longer have to contemplate what will happen if you become incapacitated or die, you can breathe a sigh of relief. The question you may have now is what do you do with your documents?
You could store them somewhere in your home
Many people think they need to “hide” their estate planning documents so that no one else can read them. The problem with this strategy is that, if you hide them during your life, they will remain hidden after your death. Your family will need to take the time to search everywhere without easy access to those documents. Depending on how big your home is, that could take a while. If you have outbuildings on your property, that only extends the search time.
Of course, your loved ones could also think you don’t have an estate plan at all and proceed as if you died without one. This could seriously complicate the settling of your estate. Moreover, your family may not follow your wishes as you intended. Instead, you could put them somewhere safe, but accessible. You may also want to consider letting someone know where the documents are and keep them high enough to avoid damage from flooding.
You could store them in a safety deposit box
Many people believe this is the best place to store estate-planning documents, but this plan could easily backfire. Financial institutions do not let just anyone into a safety deposit box. It would take a court order to get into it, which means that someone would have to represent your estate. But wait, you already chose that person when you created your plan. Without access to your documents, someone else could end up in that role.
If you have a trust, you could put the name of the safety deposit box in its name. This would allow your successor trustee ready access to the box. If you don’t have a trust, you may want to consider adding a joint owner on the box so that he or she can access it when needed. In either case, you need to choose someone you trust.
You could store them with someone you trust
You could give your documents to your executor, successor trustee or another trusted loved one. This person can then get the documents to the right place when the time comes. If you worked with an estate-planning attorney, he or she may have a vault for clients’ original documents. At the very least, having copies would allow for easy recreation of your estate plan in case of destruction or loss.
Regardless of where you intend to keep your estate-planning documents, key people may need to know where they are and/or how to gain access to them when needed.