You have finally done it; you took the necessary and important step to sit down and put together an estate plan with a qualified New York estate planning attorney. You have all of the necessary documents you need to move forward confident into the future about how your assets will be managed and distributed. You have gotten over the biggest hurdle that a majority of Americans never address but now you are faced with a trivial but important matter: where do I keep my estate plan?
Location, Location, Location
Where you store your estate plan matters. As we have written about before, failure to locate the documents in your estate plan at the necessary time could end up with them being treated as if they did not exist at all. Having your wishes written down somewhere that no one knows about does no one any good. Estate planning documents like wills serve an important evidentiary purpose for the courts as they are written proof of your final wishes. No court will probate a will that you cannot find and no hospital or financial institution is going to respect a Power of Attorney if they cannot see and examine the documents themselves.
Safe Deposit Boxes Are Safe, Too Safe
Many people may believe that a safe deposit box is a good place to store their estate planning documents. After all, it is a secure location and it is unlikely to be lost in the shuffle of everyday life. The problem arises when you pass on though that if your will is in your safe deposit box and you are the only one with access to the box that no one can get your will.
Not Your Lawyer’s Problem
Some attorneys may offer to store your estate planning documents with them for safekeeping. While this may seem like a good idea, it may present problems in the future. If you need immediate access to your documents, will your attorney be available to get them for you? If your attorney retires, what happens to those documents that were being kept? If your family needs your will, do they know that your attorney has it? Do they know who your attorney is?
On Hand In A Safe Place
The best place to keep your estate planning documents is with you. Your documents are meant to be used, and if you have a healthcare directive and have someone named as your healthcare proxy and you are in an accident you absolutely need for the right people to be able to get access to your documents. If your healthcare proxy cannot provide a copy of your healthcare proxy designation to your attending physician, your wishes may not be respected, just like if your will is unable to be located, you may die intestate as if you did not have a will.
Always keep your estate planning documents accessible but in a safe place. Ideally your documents should be kept safe from the elements inside and if possible in a fire proof and flood proof box. Acts of God happen, whether it be a flood, fire or tornado and if your documents are destroyed, it is just as if they had never existed.