Extensive estate planning may lose its effectiveness if important documents and information is lost or stolen. Safeguarding information on important estate matters such as wills & trusts is essential to assure that family members can act on wills, trusts and other important matters.
It may come as a surprise that a safe deposit box is not a good storage option for storing original documents. The authorization to gain access to the box would be contained in any estate documents stored in that location. If the person dies or becomes incapacitated, the estate administrator or heir would have to receive judicial authority to gain access, which also requires having the documents contained in the box. People who choose to keep their documents at home must keep them in a location that is safe and secure. A file cabinet at home or office is an appropriate storage location for the original documents. A fireproof safe is even better.
In addition, copies of these documents should also be kept in another location that is easily accessible. A safety deposit box is a good place to keep copies. People should also keep electronic copies with their e-records. Placing hard copies and e-copies with an attorney is also advisable. Attorneys may also elect to hold original documents in a locked and fireproof bank vault or, more recently, a fireproof and locked office file cabinet. Some firms may use easily accessible off-site storage facilities.
If original documents are lost, family members may be able to rely on photocopies. A photocopy of a will, for example, may undergo probate after the executor attests that they made a diligent search for the original that was unsuccessful.
Finally, estate documents should be periodically reviewed every few years to assure that the people named in these documents are still alive, continue to have cordial relations with the testator or should continue to be heirs or beneficiaries or play any other role in the estate. An attorney can help develop and implement an estate plan. Valid and effective legal plans may be drafted with their assistance.