After you complete the process of creating an estate plan with your Fort Worth estate lawyer, you’ll want to give serious thought about the place where you will store your original documents.
Unfortunately, if your original documents can’t be found after you pass away, it will be presumed that you died without leaving a will or trust. The local Tarrant County probate court will then proceed with administering your estate as though you died intestate, or without a last will and testament or estate plan. When that happens, Texas state law will determine to whom and how your assets are to be distributed. The final wishes and instructions you carefully set out in your estate plan simply won’t count. The situation becomes really complicated if you’ve been divorced and/or have stepchildren.
Our estate planning attorneys are often asked where original estate planning documents like wills, trusts, powers of attorney, and healthcare directives should be stored to ensure a situation like this never happens. While there is no hard and fast rule on the matter, you may want to consider the following options:
Storing Your Original Estate Planning Documents in Safe Deposit Boxes
Storing estate planning documents in a safe deposit box is a common choice, and a good one, but that doesn’t mean using a safe deposit box is without risk. If the documents giving someone authority to access your box are being stored in your box only, your executor or trustee will be locked out—in every sense of the word. That’s why it’s important to at least tell your loved ones about your box and how to access it in an emergency. You can also put details about your safe deposit box in your revocable living trust so that your successor trustee can gain immediate access to the box if something happens. A final option is to add a joint owner to the safe deposit box who is responsible and trustworthy, or to use the safe deposit box in conjunction with one of the options below.
Storing Your Original Estate Planning Documents in Your Home
While you may choose to store original estate planning documents in your own home or office, you have to keep in mind the risk of fire and floods. It’s a wise idea to invest in a quality fire and water-proof safe for security purposes. Be sure that to check the fire rating and make sure the safe you choose can withstand typical house fire situations, or you could be in the same situation as if you never executed an estate plan in the first place. You’ll also want to make sure that your loved ones know how to locate and open the safe in an emergency.
Store Your Original Estate Plan Documents With Your Executor or Successor Trustee
You might ask your Executor or Trustee to keep your original documents since this person will have the most immediate need for them after your death. Of course, the risks here are the same as above—a fire or flood could strike their home. There’s also the chance that this person could unexpectedly pass away before you do, and once again, your documents could be lost.
Store Your Estate Original Plan Documents With Your Estate Planning Attorney
You may ask to have your documents kept at the office of the estate planning attorney who drafted your plan. It is common for attorneys to have their own safe deposit boxes in their offices for storing client documents. If you feel more secure leaving your estate planning documents with your lawyer, then you just have to inform your executor or trustee of your attorney’s name and his or her contact information.
Regardless of what option you choose, you could also store a copy of your original, executed documents with one of the above as well, in case the originals are destroyed. Remember, wherever you decide to store your estate planning documents, make sure that your family and the people you trust know where your plan is located so it’s ultimately not lost in the end.
If you have further questions about creating an estate plan or what to do with your documents once your plan is in place, please contact our law firm at (817) 752-3307 to schedule an appointment with Martin Lawyers, PLLC.