When you’re considering where to store your estate planning documents – and other important papers- you have several factors to take into account. You want your documents to be easily accessible when you need them. You want them to be safe from theft. And, you want them to be protected in case of a disaster, whether it be a fire, hurricane, tornado, or flood.
So, where’s the best place to store your documents so that they’re safe and easy to access? Actually, your best option may be to store copies in more than one place.
Safe Deposit Box
A safe deposit box is a good, low-cost option for keeping your documents safe from theft and making them relatively accessible. You can keep copies of all of your estate planning papers in a safe deposit box, preferably in a sealed plastic bag to protect them from water damage. If you choose to keep your original documents here, you’ll want to make sure that your trustee, executor or another trusted person also has access to the box. If you’re the only person listed on the agreement for the box and you pass away, no one will be allowed to get into the safe deposit box without a court order.
Your attorney will most likely keep copies of all your estate planning documents, and may keep additional originals of those documents, on file at his or her office. You can also ask your attorney to keep a safe deposit box key with your estate planning documents.
It’s a good idea to invest in a fireproof, portable lockbox to keep at home for storing your important documents, plus a copy of your safe deposit box key. Again, you’ll want to be sure that all paperwork is sealed inside a plastic bag.
This way, if disaster strikes and you need to evacuate, all your important papers are within reach.
You’ll want to give some thought to where, within your home, you keep your lockbox. Keep it out in the open, and it’s an invitation for a thief to walk away with your most important papers. Hide it too well, and you may have a hard time getting to it when you need it most.
With a Relative
You also might want to consider keeping duplicates of your estate planning documents and other important papers with a relative or friend who lives out of town. While this doesn’t necessarily make your papers easily accessible, it does offer an added degree of protection. After all, it’s unlikely that the same disaster that strikes your home will also affect your sister’s home in Topeka.