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Where you keep estate documents is important

On Behalf of | Jan 22, 2020 | Estate Planning

You may have completed vital estate planning and life planning documents, including your last will and testament, your power of attorney document, and a health care directive. Where you place these documents, however, may cause problems if your heirs or family members cannot access them. Storing them in a safe deposit box at your local bank may make it hard for your relatives to access your documents when they most need them.

Accidents or diseases may cause incapacitation or disability. If this should happen to you, someone else may have to make medical decisions on your behalf. People set up health care proxies or living wills to handle these situations, entrusting their health care decisions to a trusted loved one or other individual. To receive this decision making authority, the proxy needs a copy of the living will or a health care power of attorney document.

However, if you have locked away your only copy in a safe deposit box, your intended proxy may not receive the power he or she needs. Kiplinger explains that your proxy might not have the authority to access your deposit box and retrieve the documents inside. Without the documents, your medical choices will likely stay in the hands of your doctors or a relative whom you do not want to make choices on your behalf.

Likewise, keeping an original copy of your will in your bank may cause major headaches for your heirs. After you pass away, your bank is likely to seal your box until an executor shows he or she possesses the right to open it. However, without the original copy of the will, the executor cannot file it with a court and receive a formal appointment as your estate executor. This can cause a major problem as your bank and the courts seek to work the issue out.

According to U.S. News and World Report, you can use other means to store your estate documents. Instead of a safe deposit box, some people store their documents in a fireproof safe. However, unless the safe is heavy or bolted to the floor or other hard surface, thieves can steal the safe itself and open it elsewhere. To help ensure you do not lose all copies of your documents, you could also create digital copies of your documents and store them in an online cloud.