How Should I Store My Estate Plan Documents?

Hurricane season is a reality for Florida residents. After seeing some of the devastating effects these storms can bring, it is more important than ever to store your estate plan documents safely. But, if the worst comes to pass and you’re forced to evacuate, which documents should you bring with you? Do I really need my original estate planning documents? What happens if your original documents are lost? Today we will be answering some of these pressing concerns.

Which Documents Do I Need?

Any estate plan needs both a death plan and an incapacity plan. Your estate plan requires both of these. A death plan includes documents such as a last will and testament and/or a revocable living trust. An incapacity plan includes such documents as durable power of attorney, surrogate healthcare designation, and living will. These four documents are the chiefest and most primary essentials needed to plan for your death or incapacity effectively.

The originals of these documents need to be kept somewhere protected, such as a water and fireproof safe or in a safe deposit box at the bank. If you don’t have access to either of these, you may want to consider taking these documents with you in the event that you have to evacuate. Your attorney will have a copy of any signed documents if you need an extra copy. Many will also scan these documents so they can be provided via email if necessary.

It is worth noting that if you keep your documents in a safe deposit box at the bank, you will need a cosigner on your account for your family to have access to the safe deposit box. Otherwise, your family will have to go through the legal process to gain access if you pass away without a cosigner.

I’ve Lost My Original Documents. Now what?

Some originals are more important than others. For example, a revocable living trust is rather important. But, if the original were lost, a signed copy would be enough for many situations. Your original will is also preferable to have. Though, it is not necessarily required depending on circumstances. Your durable power of attorney is very important if your attorney-in-fact needs to make real estate sales on your behalf. In the event that you lose your power of attorney and your agent must sell your land, the original power of attorney must be recorded in the county where the sale is taking place. If you lose this document, the sale can not be made in the way you originally intended.

Similarly, banks and financial institutions may ask to see an original revocable trust or original power of attorney if you are incapacitated.

If you lose any original documents, you should contact your attorney to verify the legal process of obtaining any replacements. If you have to change attorneys, it may be like starting over. In general, it is a good rule of thumb to update estate planning documents every ten years or so. If you lose the originals, you may as well review your estate plan while obtaining new documents – Making sure you have sufficient copies, and replacements should the worst come to pass in the future. If you need further counseling on securing estate plan documents, contact us at Dowd Law.