Congratulations on taking the necessary steps to create your estate plan! Now that you have your executed estate planning documents in hand, you may be wondering, “where should I keep my original documents so they are both safe and accessible?”
We have heard of many unique document storage places, including burying them in a box in the backyard and placing them in a Ziploc bag in the freezer – neither of which we recommend. Generally speaking, we do not suggest that you “hide” your Last Will and Testament because if your Will cannot be located after your death and it was known to have been in your possession, there is a legal presumption under Florida law that you revoked it by intentionally destroying it. In most cases, this would counteract the efforts of making your Will in the first place! Fortunately, this is a presumption that can be “argued” in court, so if this circumstance arises not all hope is lost – but it is a headache that can and should be avoided.
Many people, especially those who wish to keep their personal affairs more private, are quick to place their original documents in a safe deposit box at their bank. If you decide to go this route there are some important things to note. Having a trusted family member, friend, or agent on the safe deposit box with you as a joint owner may be a great option because when you die the joint owner will still have access to the box. However, a safe deposit box may not be the best option if it’s in your name alone because upon your death court involvement will be necessary before someone can gain access. It is also important to know that some banks may require the agent under your Power of Attorney to produce the original document in order for him or her to access your safe deposit box. If the original document is stored inside the box, this can present quite a roadblock!
We often recommend keeping your estate planning documents in a fire and water-proof box in your home. That said, it is important for you to let your agents know a) where the box is located and b) how to access it. This information allows your agent to retrieve the documents when the appropriate time comes. If you are comfortable with your named agents knowing your estate planning wishes, another option is to provide your originals to your primary agent for safekeeping. We always encourage our clients to be a blessing and not a burden to their loved ones and an easy way to do this is to make sure your estate planning documents are safe and accessible.
By: Alana D. Horner