When you leave our office, you’ll walk out with the original copies of everything you signed along with one extra photocopy. Our office recommends that your original estate planning documents be kept in a bank’s safe deposit box. If you’re married, your spouse’s name should also be on the box so that they can access it.
You should also have another trusted person listed on the box as a co-owner in addition to your spouse (e.g., adult child, sibling, good friend) so that these documents can be accessed after your passing. If you do not, the bank will require a court order to access the box which will delay matters and increase the cost for those that you leave behind.
The second-best option for keeping these original documents is in a home safe or secure lock box. Those can be purchased at a variety of locations, but be sure to check the fire rating. Many such safes and boxes will not last long in a fire, and even if they are fireproof, the high temperatures of being surrounded in flames will most likely destroy the contents. In addition, many are mobile boxes that can simply be picked up and carried out of the house by a burglar. If you do elect to keep your original documents at home, be sure others have access to the box (the combination or key) so that it can be accessed after your incapacity or passing.
We suggest keeping a full copy of your estate planning documents close at hand in your house so that copies can be used or produced to others as needed. Many people also scan those documents and keep them on their computer, iPad or smartphone where copies can easily be emailed out to others if needed. If you do so, ensure that the documents are safe from other prying eyes and that adequate security and firewalls have been employed.