Disaster Proof Your Documents!

The importance of creating an estate plan before death cannot be overemphasized. A properly thought-out estate plan will ensure that your wealth is distributed according to your wishes upon your passing. Unfortunately, certain unexpected events such as hurricanes and other natural disasters could easily ruin your estate planning documents and jeopardize your efforts. The good news is that there are certain measures you can take to ensure that these documents are protected even under the harshest of conditions. Here are some practical ways to safeguard your estate planning documents from disasters. 

  1. Keep them with your lawyer 

One way to safeguard your estate planning documents is to entrust them with the attorney who helped you draft them. Most lawyers have a vault or safety deposit box for storing their clients’ important documents. However, a conflict may arise if your heirs are not aware of the presence of these documents or only have access to a previous version in the possession of a different attorney. As such, be sure to let your executor know the name and contact information of your lawyer if you do decide to store your estate planning documents at their office. 

  1. File with the probate court 

In some states, you can file your estate planning documents with the probate court before you die. Once you do this, the documents become a public record that is easily accessible to everyone. As such, there are no concerns about losing the documents or something happening to them. However, you will need to update them with the court if you make any changes after filing. The court may keep multiple versions of the documents, allowing the beneficiaries to see the changes made overtime. Be sure to inform your executor about the filing so that they don’t have a hard time tracking down the documents when they are already with the court. 

  1. Store them in a personal safety deposit box

Storing your estate planning documents in a safety deposit box is a great option too, as it provides privacy and only the designated people with keys can open the box. However, different states have different laws about who can access a safety deposit box, and this can be an issue when the time to open it comes. Anyone who wishes to open a loved one’s safety deposit box has to get the court’s approval, and this can be quite time consuming. A general rule of thumb is to inform your executor about the box and then fill out a form at the bank granting them the legal right to open it when you die. 

  1. Keep them in your home 

Another free and easy way to safeguard your estate planning documents is to store them in a safe location in your home. This could be a fireproof safe, locked filing cabinet, or even your desk. This option does not require any complicated steps if you decide to update the documents, and your survivors will not have a difficult time locating them once you are gone. However, due to their susceptibility to natural disasters, you may want to keep the documents in a fireproof and waterproof storage to protect them from physical damage. 

Today, there are several online storage options you can use to safeguard important documents and ensure that they are not ruined by floods and other disasters. However, you will still need the original documents as they are required by probate courts during the succession process. 

No matter where you decide to keep your documents, make sure the right people know where to find them. If the documents can’t be located, your efforts will likely go to waste as your property will be distributed according to your local intestacy laws. For further assistance or to speak with a family law attorney, feel free to contact us anytime at 305-358-1771.