Safely storing estate planning documents can ensure that your vision and wishes are followed after you pass away. From wills to power of attorney documents, you must store them in an accessible location safe from thieves or prying eyes.
This guide from our estate planning attorneys will help you find a safe place to store your estate planning documents.
Estate Planning Documents You Need to Store
Estate planning is putting legally binding plans in place for your financial affairs and estate after your death. It’s a very overlooked part of adult life that everyone should take care of, even if they’re young.
Depending on the complexity of your estate and your assets, you may need to safely store the following estate planning documents:
- Will: Your last will and testament document outlines how you want your belongings to be distributed. Without a will, your estate’s distribution will be determined by Florida’s intestate laws. It will also include your preference for guardianship of minor children, so you shouldn’t risk losing this document.
- Living will: A living will details your end-of-life-care preferences.
- Power of Attorney: This document states who you want to make financial decisions for you when you’re unable to do so due to illness or incapacitation.
- Medical Power of Attorney: This documents who you want to make health care decisions if you’re unable to, such as life support, medication and treatment.
- Trust: Trusts are documents that control the distribution of your assets and are managed by a Trustee for the benefit of your selected trust beneficiaries.
- Life Insurance Policies: By making these documents safe and easy to find, your loved ones will face considerably less stress and hassle after your death.
Where to Store Estate Planning Documents
When you die, your estate planning documents must be found. So wherever you store them, a trusted friend, relative or attorney should be made aware of the location.
The most common places to store estate planning documents include:
- Safes: Ideally, fireproof and waterproof in your home, so the documents are not damaged in a disaster.
- Safe Deposit Box: Most banks allow you to store estate planning documents in a safe deposit box. This ensures protection from disaster or prying eyes. However, your surviving family or friend may struggle to gain access to the safe deposit box after you die, if the bank requests a court order.
- Probate Court or Court Administrator’s Officer: For free or a small fee, your community’s probate court can safely store your document.
- Your Estate Planning Attorney’s Office: Most estate planning attorneys will happily store documents that they’ve helped to prepare. This is often the least stressful option.
- Online document storage services.
Should I Store Estate Planning Documents in a Safety Deposit Box?
It’s not usually advised to store your documents in a safety deposit box. Unless your trusted family member or friend has been given access to your box in advance, then they may struggle to gain access to the box after you die. Often, the bank will request a court order to prove the person should be granted access.
If you have a revocable living trust, you may be able to add it as an additional lessee for the box, which will allow your successor trustee to gain access after your death or incapacitation.
You can also consider adding a joint holder to the box.
If the bank requests a court order, then an examination of the box will be required for the document, followed by a slow and tedious process including paperwork, lawyers and legal fees.
Should I Give Copies of My Estate Planning Documents to Trusted People?
If you are comfortable with trusting someone to hold a copy of your estate planning documents privately, then it is wise to do so. Many people provide their children, personal representative, trustees or estate planning attorneys with a copy of documents such as a will.
If you are not comfortable with doing this or don’t trust the people around you to respect your privacy, then it is not advised to share a copy. For example, you may be uncomfortable with revealing your distribution intentions to your children before your death.
If you are happy with sharing copies, ensure everyone has the latest version. You don’t want to cause tensions by giving your son an outdated copy and your daughter the latest, edited version of your will. Doing this can lead to arguments after your death.
Can I Store Estate Planning Documents Digitally?
The internet has made estate planning document storage much easier. There are various options available, but always ensure your trusted loved one, friend or attorney knows how to access these documents after you pass away (for example, by having access to the cloud folder or knowing the password). Digital estate planning storage locations include:
- Clouds storage services, such as Dropbox, Google Drive and Microsoft OneDrive.
- Storage devices such as USB drives or hard drives that are stored in safe locations.
- Document management systems.
If you want to store estate planning documents on your computer, it’s advised to encrypt the files. Encryption is effectively a layer of protection that prevents unauthorized people from accessing the documents. The access code or password should be shared with the executor of your estate, a trusted loved one or friend or your estate planning attorney.
Contact a Florida Estate Planning Attorney Today
If you need any advice or legal support in any area of estate planning, then our Florida estate planning lawyers can help. Whether you need to appoint a power of attorney or draft a will or trust documents, we’re just a phone call away.
Battaglia, Ross, Dicus & McQuaid, P.A. is U.S. News and World Reports Tier 1 law firm in Florida, specializing in Estate Planning & Probate since 1958. With award-winning experienced estate planning attorneys, they can help you create a will to avoid complications for your family after your death.
Schedule a free consultation today to get started.