Safekeeping Your Estate Planning Documents
Completing your estate plan is a great accomplishment, but the fun’s not over yet – now you have to decide where to keep the papers for the rest of your life. Generally, you have three options for safekeeping your estate planning documents:
Traditionally, lawyers would keep and store their clients documents since they already had the means to safeguard confidential paper files. This is becoming less common as many offices are going paperless, but some attorneys still offer this service because, by keeping the originals, the lawyer would be conveniently placed in the best position for future estate planning and probate work. In other words, the only way to get the originals would be to have the client (or if deceased, the clients heirs) contact the lawyer, which then gives the lawyer an opportunity for more business.
This brings up a series of issues: (a) what if the lawyer changes location, becomes incapacitated, or dies, (b) what if the client fails to tell his executor or alternate where the documents are being held (or they simply forget) (c) what if you decide you want to update your estate planning, but want to go with a different lawyer? As silly as the last reason sounds, it’s not uncommon for clients to drag their feet in updating their estate plan because they don’t want to have that awkward conversation with their former estate planning attorney.
Although uncommon, Massachusetts does allow you to file your Will with the court while you are still living. You fill out some paperwork, pay a small fee (currently around $75), and the court will keep your Will safe until notified of your death.
If you don’t mind going to the court to file your Will (and going back if you update it) then this option may work for you. On a side note: although the documents are already in the court’s possession, your personal representative will still need to file the Will for probate so make sure you let him or her know where it is located.
You may have noticed that the first two options don’t entirely solve your problem because you still need a safe place to put your Health Care Proxy and Power of Attorney. Plus, you need to make sure that both documents are easily accessible and having a third party hold either could cause unnecessary delays.
For that reason, the most popular option is to get a fire-proof safe (available at your local office supply store or amazon) and keep the originals in your home. I’ve heard of clients opting to put their documents in the refrigerator, but I wouldn’t recommend putting legal documents next to your frozen pizza.
Lastly, in case you were curious, safe deposit boxes are not recommended due to their lack of accessibility. Often the persons you’ve named in your documents won’t be authorized to access the safe deposit box without already having the papers in hand. You can see how that’s a problem.
If you have any other questions about estate planning, then please feel free to contact Joseph Lento at Perennial Trust by calling (781) 202 – 6368 or emailing firstname.lastname@example.org. You can also download our Free Estate Planning Guide. Thanks for reading!