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Where Should I Store My Estate Planning Documents?

File marked "Estate Plan." Where should I store my estate planning documents?

Estate planning documents are important legal documents that outline your wishes for your assets and healthcare decisions in the event of your incapacity or death. It’s crucial to keep these documents safe and secure, so they can be easily accessed when needed. If you’re wondering, “Where should I store my estate planning documents?” – then here’s a guide on how to ensure they are protected.

Choose a secure storage location.

When it comes to storing your estate planning documents, it’s important to choose a secure location that is easily accessible to you and your loved ones. Make sure to inform your trusted family members or friends of the location and provide them with access in case of an emergency. Avoid storing them in a location that is exposed to the Arizona heat (like your garage) or easily accessible to unauthorized individuals.

Consider using a fireproof safe.

One of the best ways to store your estate planning documents safely and securely is by using a fireproof safe. These safes are designed to protect your important documents from fire damage, water damage, and theft. Look for a safe that is rated to withstand high temperatures and has a waterproof seal to protect against flooding or water damage. Make sure to keep the safe in a location that is easily accessible to you and your loved ones, but also secure enough to prevent unauthorized access.

“Should I store my estate planning documents in a safe deposit box?”

Another option for storing your estate planning documents safely and securely is to use a safe deposit box at a bank or credit union. Safe deposit boxes are typically located in a secure area of the bank and can only be accessed with a key or combination provided by the bank. This provides an added layer of security for your important documents. However, it’s important to note that safe deposit boxes may not be easily accessible during certain hours or in the event of a bank holiday, so it’s important to plan accordingly. Additionally, make sure to inform your loved ones of the location and give someone access to the safe deposit box in case of an emergency.

In Arizona, there is a statute that allows two bank employees to open a box and look for a will if anyone claiming to be interested in the contents presents himself to the bank.

“Should I store my estate planning documents with my lawyer?”

Storing estate planning documents with a lawyer can be a smart decision for several reasons. Firstly, it ensures that the original documents are kept in a secure location, protecting them from loss, damage, or theft. Secondly, it can provide peace of mind, knowing that the documents are accessible to trusted family members or personal representative when they are needed. Thirdly, having a lawyer store the documents ensures that they are up-to-date and compliant with current laws and regulations, and that any necessary updates or changes are made promptly. Overall, storing estate planning documents with a lawyer is an effective way to ensure that your wishes are carried out as intended, and that your loved ones are protected in the event of your incapacity or passing.

“Should I store my estate planning documents online?”

Online storage options for estate planning documents offer several benefits for individuals and families. Firstly, it provides easy access to important documents from anywhere with an internet connection. This is especially useful for family members who may live in different locations or for individuals who frequently travel. Secondly, online storage options can be password protected, ensuring that the documents are only accessible to authorized individuals. Thirdly, cloud-based storage solutions often have built-in redundancy, meaning that data is stored in multiple locations, minimizing the risk of loss due to hardware failure or natural disasters.However, it is important to ensure that the chosen online storage provider is secure, reliable, and complies with applicable laws and regulations.

Additionally, individuals should consider storing physical copies of their estate planning documents in a secure location as a backup. (Plus, you need to keep your original will available in case a probate is needed.) If someone needs to probate your will after you die, having the original document is absolutely preferable to an online copy. Without an original, Arizona law requires a formal probate to establish the validity of the document.)

Be careful about only storing your Will electronically.

If your original will is not found upon your death, it raises a question of whether you revoked it. The Arizona statute about lost or missing wills states:

If an original will that was last seen in the possession of the testator cannot be found after the testator’s death, the testator is presumed to have destroyed the will with the intention of revoking it. This presumption may be rebutted by a preponderance of the evidence. If this presumption arises and is not rebutted the will is revoked.

Electronic wills.

Arizona has a procedure for electronic wills. In Arizona, you still need to file a paper will in order to probate it. There is no procedure for uploading or emailing an electronic copy or an “electronic will.” The applicable statute on how to file a certified paper copy of an original will is A.R.S. Section 14-2523.

Inform trusted individuals of the location.

It’s important to inform trusted individuals of the location of your estate planning documents, whether they are stored at home or in a safe deposit box. This can include family members, your attorney, or your personal representative. Make sure they know where to find the documents in case of an emergency or after your passing. It’s also a good idea to provide them with a copy of your estate plan and any relevant contact information for your attorney. This can help ensure that your wishes are carried out and your loved ones are taken care of according to your wishes.

Keep copies in multiple locations.

One way to ensure the safety and security of your estate planning documents is to keep copies in multiple locations. This can include storing a copy at home in a fireproof safe or filing cabinet, as well as keeping a copy in a secure off-site location such as a safe deposit box or with your attorney. By having multiple copies in different locations, you can help ensure that your documents are protected in case of a natural disaster, theft, or other unforeseen circumstances. Just be sure to inform trusted individuals of the location of each copy.

We suggest sharing copies of your estate plan with your loved ones so everyone is aware of the latest version. Too often, we see families who are surprised that their deceased loved one’s documents were changed shortly before he or she died. Maybe it was a meddling family member or caretaker who saw an opportunity to profit by using undue influence. Sharing your documents with your loved ones helps ensure that you are protected and your wishes get carried out.

Trust Our Law Firm for Estate Planning Help

If you are considering estate planning, don’t hesitate to reach out to us for help. Attorney Paul Deloughery and his staff can guide you through the process, ensuring that your wishes are carried out and your loved ones are protected. Whether you need help creating a will, establishing a trust, or navigating complex tax laws, we have the knowledge and expertise to provide personalized solutions that meet your unique needs. Contact us today at 602-443-4888 to schedule a consultation and take the first step toward peace of mind for you and your family.

 

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Founding attorney Paul Deloughery has been an attorney since 1998, became a Certified Family Wealth Advisor. He is also the founder of Sudden Wealth Protection Law.

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