Do you remember when you were a little kid and your mom told you to put your favorite toy in a safe place? Then, you put it somewhere so safe that you could not find it? Believe it or not, the same thing can happen with your valuables now as an adult.
When it comes to important legal paperwork, such as your estate planning documents, it is essential to keep them in a safe place. It is also important to remember where you put them. That way you can tell your personal representative, agent under your durable power of attorney, and family where to find them. With that in mind, let us take a look at some tips for securely storing your Florida estate planning documents.
1. If at all possible, do not keep them in the safe deposit box. While this may sound counterintuitive, let us explain. First, this makes it difficult to get them in a hurry. Second, if you are the only one with authorized access, your family may need a court order to open it. You may be able to eliminate the need for a court order by giving someone you trust joint ownership of the safe deposit box. Another way to do this would be to assign ownership of the box to your revocable living trust, if you have one. Doing this allows the person you designated as the successor trustee to get into the box when need be.
2. If you are going to keep them at home, make sure you put them someplace where they will not get damaged in a fire or other natural disaster. At the very least, consider putting them somewhere up high, where they are less likely to get damaged in a flood. Better yet, consider getting a fire and waterproof safe and make sure someone you trust knows the combination as well.
3. You do not have to hide your estate planning documents, nor should you. For one thing, you may forget where you hid them. Secondly, you may forget to tell your family where to find them. In either case, no one would be able to find them after you die and not having your original documents can cause all sorts of issues that your experienced estate planning attorney can discuss with you.
4. Be prepared for the unusual circumstances of our home state. In Florida, we are at risk of hurricanes. The old tried and true idea your grandmother may have told you of “hide it in the freezer” may result in your documents being destroyed. Think about a dry, safe location.
What happens if no one can find your estate planning documents? If no one can find your original estate planning documents after you die, unfortunately it can trigger a legal presumption that you did not have any or that you meant to destroy them. The court may be forced to act accordingly, and attorneys will need to get involved to represent your wishes.
Estate planning documents are important as they provide critical guidance on your wishes. Every reasonable effort to keep them safe should be made. Our office can answer questions about how to best preserve your estate planning documents so that they are secure and easily accessible when needed. We are also here to help you establish your estate plan so that it meets the unique needs of you and your loved ones. Do not hesitate to call our law office with any questions or concerns, at any time.