Where Do I Store Original Documents?

Where is the proper place to store original documents, especially estate planning documents, for safekeeping?

While there is no right or wrong answer to this question, there are a few options better than others:

Safety Deposit Box

This is a great option, but keep in mind that a safety deposit box is a rental arrangement; you are leasing the box from the bank. You must make sure that your trust is the owner of the safety deposit box. If that is not the case, make sure you have listed a trusted loved one as having access to your box.

Usually the only way for someone to gain access to your box if you become incapacitated or die is to obtain a court order. This process wastes time and money. But, if the box is owned by your trust, your trustee will have the right to access the contents.

Home Safe

Your home safe is great place to store original documents, but make sure the safe is fire-proof and water-proof. Make sure someone you trust has the combination to your safe. If not, ensure that they will easily gain access to the combination if you become incapacitated or die.

Trustee’s Office

If you have named a bank or trust company as your executor or successor trustee, this may be the best place to store original documents. Banks and trust companies have specific procedures in place to insure that your original estate planning documents are stored in a safe and secure area. If you choose this option, make sure one or more of your family members know where your original documents are located.

Where Are Some Places You Should Not Store Your Original Documents.

Attorney’s Office

Traditionally, it was customary for attorney’s to keep client’s original estate planning documents for safekeeping. However, this is not recommended nowadays. As years go by, it may become difficult for family members to track down your attorney who could change firms, die or retire.

At Home

Do not leave your original documents in an area where it can be damaged by water or fire. Always make sure the originals are in a safe place. Having them laying around the house is not the best idea.

Regardless of where you decide to store original documents, make sure your family members, a trusted friend or adviser, or your estate planning attorney know where to find them. In addition, make sure you have a backup copy and digital version.

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