Where should you store your estate planning documents?

Estate Planning
By Goodwin Como, P.C.

Nearly 60% of Americans are without an end-of-life plan, such as a will or a trust. However, you are one of the 40% that took the time to craft an estate plan with an attorney. Congratulations! Now, another essential step is deciding how to store your plan.

Many lawyers here in Pennsylvania will keep your original documents in their office, usually in a vault or in locked file cabinets. Those who practice in a big city may move them to another location due to the high cost of real estate.

Consider other options for storing your will or trust

While many people feel more secure having their attorney hold onto their estate planning documents, others want them in a more accessible location. Forbes magazine has some suggestions:

  • Avoid a safe deposit box for original docs: Storing your original documents in a safe deposit box can cause a headache for your survivors if you die, and no one else has access. Family members or others may need a court order to get into the box.
  • Fireproof safe: While some may store their documents in a file cabinet, your documents are worth spending some extra dollars for a fireproof safe.
  • Make copies: After storing your original documents in a secure and accessible location, make hard copies. Your attorney will have one set, while another can go into your safe deposit box as a backup.
  • Store e-records: Your attorney will also have an electronic version of your estate plan and should send you a copy of all documents to store in a password-protected location on your computer.

What happens if the originals are lost?

There is no need to panic if the original estate documents are lost or destroyed. Family members can use photocopies, which can go through probate once the executor of your estate confirms that a thorough search was done to find the originals.

Diligently review your plan

Review your plan often if changes are needed for beneficiaries or assets to be distributed. Estate plans should be updated when significant life events happen, such as births, deaths, marriages or a change in employment status. An experienced estate planning attorney here in Pennsylvania can help you manage your plan and keep it up-to-date.