Although your initial estate plan may consist of nothing more than a Last Will and Testament, that plan will likely grow and expand over the years to include numerous estate planning documents. Where you keep those documents is more important than you may realize. Your safety deposit box may seem like the logical choice if you keep other valuable documents there; however, that is not the best place for your estate planning documents. The Long Island estate planning attorneys at Eghrari Wealth Training Firm explain where you should keep your estate planning documents.
What Is Included in Your Estate Plan?
Your estate plan may include numerous documents, such as a Will, trust agreement, life insurance policies, advance directives, and a power of attorney. An original copy (meaning one with an original signature in ink) of these documents is often required for the document to be recognized and honored. Keeping an original copy of all estate planning documents together in one place makes sense. The first place many people think of is when deciding where to keep those documents is their existing safety deposit box. Before you make that common mistake, consider why your safety deposit box is not a good idea.
Shortly after your death, your estate will go through the legal process known as “probate.” Probate serves numerous purposes, including:
- Identifying and securing your assets
- Authenticating your Will
- Paying debts of the estate
- Litigating any claims against the estate
- Paying estate taxes
- Distributing assets to beneficiaries and/or heirs
In your Will you appointed someone to be the Executor of your estate. Your Executor is responsible for overseeing the probate process. To fulfill that role, your appointed Executor must initiate the probate process with the appropriate court and petition the court to officially be appointed as your Executor. If the court approves the appointment, the court will issue Letters Testamentary which provide proof that the Executor has been appointed by the court and therefore has the authority to act on behalf of the estate.
The Safety Deposit Box Dilemma
The problem with storing estate planning documents in your safety deposit box begins with a simple dilemma. To initiate the probate process and secure the appointment as your Executor, the court will likely require an original copy of your Will confirming the appointment. If your Will is in your safety deposit box, however, the bank won’t allow access to the box without proof that the individual seeking access is the Executor of your estate. You need the Will to gain access to the safety deposit box – but the Will is in the box. The same problem can occur with other estate planning documents as well. For example, an Agent with your Power of Attorney may have the legal authority necessary to access your safety deposit box; however, if the POA document granting your Agent that authority is in the box, that same circular dilemma occurs once again.
Instead of keeping estate planning documents in your safety deposit box, consider some other options. First, however, consider executing more than one original copy of important documents. Distribute an original set of all documents to your estate planning attorney, to anyone named as a fiduciary within your plan (Executor of your Will, Trustee of a trust, Agent of POA, Guardian of minor children), and keep an original set at home in a fireproof safe and/or give them to a trusted family member. Finally, make sure that your Executor and a trusted family member know where your documents are kept and how to contact your estate planning attorney.
Contact Long Island Estate Planning Attorneys
For more information, please join us for an upcoming FREE seminar. If you have additional questions or concerns regarding estate planning, contact the Long Island estate planning attorneys at Eghrari Wealth Training Firm by calling us at 631-265-0599 to schedule your appointment.