Accidents happen, Murphy’s Law does exist, and things have a tendency to go wrong occasionally; computers crash, fires happen, pipes break and flood your home, and sometimes things just get lost during the passage of time. This can even happen to something as important as your estate planning documents — which is why it’s important to know where and how to store your estate planning documents once you’ve executed them.
Insurance and Benefits
The insurance companies say they are not required to advise beneficiaries of a claim; they say they are only responsible for paying a claim once beneficiaries come forward. Cemeteries do not know when the owners of the plots have passed away. The burial plots owned may never be used, if they are not easily found.
Copies of Documents
Have copies. No matter where you decide to keep your signed originals, photocopies should be made and kept somewhere they can be found easily by your agents should something happen to you. A library bookshelf, or office closet is an unobtrusive but accessible place to store copies.
Keep your original documents someplace safe from theft and natural disasters. Originals can be kept in a fire-safe in your home if you have one, or in a safe deposit box at your bank. If you decide to keep the documents in a safe deposit box, be sure to put the box in the name of the trust rather than your own name. This allows your trustee to access the box (and the documents inside) when you pass away.
Multiple Document Copies
Make sure your agents and fiduciaries have the documents they will need to do their job should anything happen to you. Your will or trust should stay in your possession, along with your Healthcare Directive and various other documents, but your healthcare agent will need a copy of your HIPAA authorization, and your nominated guardians should have the original document giving them permission to make health care decisions for your minor child if you are unavailable.
Distribute Estate Planning Documents
Every estate plan will vary slightly, so ask your estate planner which documents to keep and which to send to your fiduciaries after you’ve signed. If you can, get your documents in .pdf format on a disk or flash drive. You can also document items with your movie camera. Electronic copies won’t hold up in court; but are another level of protection, and can be used for insurance and assistance.
Here is a quick list Required Documents:
Letter of Final Instruction
Drivers License and other Licenses
Life insurance policies, location and beneficiaries
List of Bank accounts and titling information
USERNAMEs and PASSWORDs for Computers & Software account information
List of Safety deposit boxes, list of contents, where the keys and bank are located
Personal and family medical history
Durable health care power of attorney
Do-not-resuscitate order (DNR)
Housing, land and cemetery deeds
Escrow mortgage accounts
Proof of loans made and debts owed
Stock certificates, savings bonds and brokerage accounts
Partnership and corporate operating agreements
Tax details and history of returns information
Vehicle files, titles, repairs, and warranty information
Cellphone account information
Trust and investment account information
Business accounts information
Storage Facilities information
Any debts or other liabilities
Credit card accounts
Club Memberships, subscriptions, automatic payments
Other important documents like deeds and titles, and where they are held
Pension benefit details and contact information
Be sure you make a checkmark by each item as you locate and store copies and originals. Copies should be given to your successor and to another party, such as your protector or estate planner.
Here is a quick list for your Letter of Final Instruction:
Where to find your estate planning documents
Contact information for relevant advisers
Who to contact upon your death
Wallet and Credit Cards
Where house keys, repairs, locks, and warranty information are kept
Where car keys are kept
Who are caretakes, security services, landscapers, gardeners, pool services
Where padlock keys, and what combination lock numbers are
Your instructions for funeral or memorial services
Be sure you store your Letter of Final Instruction with your estate planning documents and provide a copy to your estate planner.