You have finally taken the time to consider how you desire your estate to be handled and even met with an attorney to start the process. The completed documents are subsequently reviewed by you and a time is scheduled to execute your Revocable Living Trust, Pour Over Will and Durable Powers of Attorney. You think you are home-free but learn of the importance of ensuring that all of your assets (with some exceptions) should be transferred into the Trust. Eventually, you complete this task as well but fail to consider one important factor regarding an effective estate plan – the storage of your documents.
Safe deposit boxes may not be the best answer. Many people believe that the best place to store their original estate planning documents is in their safe deposit box at the local bank. However, if you are the only one who signed the lease and become incapacitated or die, no one else will be able to open your box unless they go to court and obtain an order granting them access. Moreover, keys are often lost and there will be significant fees to drill the box.
Leaving the originals with your attorney. The only problem with this option is that problems can arise if the attorney passes away, retires or leaves the firm. Unfortunately, this option relies upon someone else to care for your documents and they can be misplaced or it become difficult to recover the items.
Home storage. This still remains the best alternative for the storage of original estate planning documents. You don’t need a home safe to store documents. Instead, you can utilize a fireproof box. Target has small boxes advertised for sale between $20 and $35. The most important consideration when using this alternative is to remember to place the documents in the box for safekeeping!
I recently had a meeting with a client who had relocated to Las Vegas after his home in Paradise, California was destroyed in one of the numerous wildfires that besieged Northern California in 2018. After receiving a phone call that he had to immediately evacuate his home, he retrieved his fireproof box and, with only the clothes on his back, narrowly escaped being caught in the fire that destroyed the town and took the lives of 42 persons.
Unfortunately, while my client had placed most of his key documents in the fireproof box, his original estate planning documents were kept in a folder lying next to the box and were destroyed. He had executed his trust some time ago and could not recall the name of the attorney who prepared the documents. As a result, we had to prepare a new estate plan.
Recommendation: Storing your original estate planning documents at home is an effective and inexpensive method of storage. You should make sure the documents are kept in a fireproof box and that your loved ones are aware of where the box is kept in the home. Following these simple suggestions will help avoid undue delay and reduce stress for your family after your passing.
For more than 30 years, Attorney Lee A. Drizin has practiced in the areas of estate planning, probate, trusts, guardianship and real estate matters representing clients throughout the state of Nevada.
Drizin Law is providing this information for educational purposes only. It should not be construed as legal advice or a legal opinion as to any specific facts or circumstances. This information is based on general principles of Nevada law at the time it was created and you should be aware laws frequently change. Moreover, the laws affecting you may differ depending on the circumstances. You should consult with a qualified attorney in your own state or jurisdiction concerning your particular situation. Review of this information does not create an attorney-client relationship.