After you complete the process of creating an estate plan with your Newport Beach estate lawyer, you’ll want to give serious thought about the place where you will store your original documents.
Unfortunately, if your original documents can’t be found after you pass away, it will be presumed that you died without leaving a will or trust. The local Orange County probate court will then proceed with administering your estate as though you died intestate, or without a plan. When that happens, California state law will determine to whom and how your assets are to be distributed. The final wishes and instructions you carefully set out in your estate plan simply won’t count.
Our estate planning attorneys in Orange County are often asked where original estate planning documents like wills, trusts, powers of attorney, and healthcare directives should be stored to ensure a situation like this never happens. While there is no hard and fast rule on the matter, you may want to consider the following options:
Storing Your Estate Planning Documents in Safe Deposit Boxes
Storing documents in a safe deposit box is a common choice, but that doesn’t mean using a safe deposit box is without risk. If the documents giving someone authority to access your box are being stored in your box only, your executor or trustee will be locked out—in every sense of the word. That’s why it’s important to at least tell your loved ones about your box and how to access it in an emergency. You can also put details about your safe deposit box in your revocable living trust so that your successor trustee can gain immediate access to the box if something happens. A final option is to add a joint owner to the safe deposit box who is responsible and trustworthy.
Storing Your Estate Planning Documents in Your Home
While you may choose to store original estate planning documents in your own home or office, you have to keep in mind the risk of fire and floods. It’s a wise idea to invest in a fire and water-proof safe for security purposes. You’ll also want to make sure that your loved ones know how to locate and open the safe in an emergency.
Store Your Estate Plan Documents With Your Executor or Successor Trustee
You might also ask your Executor or Trustee to keep your original documents since this person will have the most immediate need for them after your death. Of course, the risks here are the same as above—a fire or flood could strike their home. There’s also the chance that this person could unexpectedly pass away before you do, and once again, your documents could be lost.
Wherever you may decide to store your estate planning documents, make sure that your family and the people you trust know where your plan is located so it’s ultimately not lost in the end. If you have further questions about creating an estate plan or what to do with your documents once your plan is in place, please contact our Orange County law firm at (949) 260-1400 to schedule an appointment.