I’ve been practicing for long enough at this point in my life that I can tell a real life story for almost every situation that occurs and boy, do I have stories about mishaps regarding the storage of vital estate planning documents. From Wills being locked in safety deposit boxes to Health Care documents being stored improperly during times of medical emergencies, I’ve seen it all. If you live down in this area of the state, you probably already have an emergency kit ready in the event of a hurricane. This probably includes medication, batteries, a weather radio, water, etc. However, it’s equally as important to take time storing and keeping tabs on your important personal documents such as estate planning documents, medical records, tax information, etc.
When thinking about where to best store your estate planning documents you should put some thought into both the safety and durability of the storage device and the ease of accessibility to it in the event of an emergency. The most important thing is that YOU are not the sole individual who can access these documents. They should be accessible by appropriate, trusted people in your inner circle otherwise, they are virtually useless. Here are a few storage options to consider:
- A fire-proof and flood proof safe located in your home or office. Usually these are relatively inexpensive and more secure than something like a locked filing cabinet. Some best practices would be to keep the safe in a private area of your home or office, make sure it utilizes a combination lock or key and ideally, would be difficult to move.
- A safe-deposit box at a bank. While these fire-proof metal boxes are used by many people for safe storage of important documents, keep in mind that they can be difficult to access in an emergency (for instance, when local banks/business are shut down). Also, access to safe-deposit boxes can be restricted by the bank to only yourself and could be frozen upon your passing. This would require that your family—if a separate individual is not explicitly listed on the box—go through the probate court to even obtain access to your documents.
- Online Storage. For the tech savvy, this may be a great options as there are a number of online cloud storage systems available these days. Keeping your documents online keeps them organized, protected from external damage and easily accessible from any digital device with access to the login and password. Keep in mind, however, that some medical/financial institutions may still require original documents, so it’s always best to keep the originals in one safe location, in addition to using a digital storage option.
- At your attorney’s office. Many firms, including Davis, Davis & Associates, offer clients the option to retain original documents, free of charge. Allowing your attorney to safely store your documents is a great way to prevent the misplacement of vital original records, keep documents safe from getting into the hands of any unwanted individuals in your home and keep the records accessible to your trusted attorney, should your family need legal assistance.
For more information on how to best organize and store your estate planning documents, reach out to your trusted financial advisor or legal professional. At Davis, Davis, & Associates, it’s not just our job, but our honor to assist you.