Although we are moving toward being a paperless society, there are still a few key documents that every person needs to hold on to for the future. Things like social security cards, birth certificates, and the titles to vehicles aren’t something you use on a day-to-day basis, but it is sure a hassle to get a replacement if you somehow misplace these documents.
In order to keep these documents safe, many people store them in their safe deposit box at the bank, or in a fire-proof safe in their homes. While this is a good storage option for most important documents, there are some key documents that should not be kept in such a difficult-to-access location. Estate planning documents fall into this category.
Imagine how frustrating it is for the family of someone who has passed away to not be able to close out their loved one’s estate, and get needed emotional closure, because they are unable to locate any estate planning documents. They might know that their loved one had a safe deposit box at the bank where they kept important papers, but unless they had previously been given access to the box, the documents they need in order to prove they can have access to the box are in the box.
In order to get access to a safe deposit box without having been granted access prior to a loved one’s death without proof that the deceased person’s estate plan grants access, someone who was close to the deceased person must go to court and start to probate the deceased person’s estate as if they died without a will. A court will then grant permission for the person probating the estate to have access to the safe deposit box.
After getting permission to access the safe deposit box, the deceased person’s key to the box must be located. If the key cannot be located, the person probating the estate must pay for the bank to drill the box open.
This entire process is time-consuming, expensive, and often very frustrating for the deceased person’s loved ones.
A far better option for storing estate planning documents is putting them in a fire-safe box without a lock, and storing that box in a secure location in your home. While the location should be secure, it should not be a secret. The people you choose to carry out your estate plan should be told exactly where it is located. They should be reminded of the location and their role in your estate plan multiple times.