With all of the recent fires in California that damaged so many homes, there is a new awareness of the importance of finding the best way to store your legal documents. Some types of documents cannot be replaced if they are lost, complicating property transfers and proof of ownership.
As you review your year-end finances and asset plans, it pays to list and secure all important papers. This is especially true with estate planning documents, that reflect your wishes about your assets and heirs. If those are destroyed with no copies, then all of your good effort to protect your heirs will have no effect. This situation can be easily avoided with advance planning and simple precautions.
What Estate Planning Documents Should I Have? The first step is to make sure that your estate plan is up to date, with all the correct paperwork. If there have been family or financial changes this year, then you may need to add some documents or make amendments.
Here is a list of the most essential estate planning documents:
- Will or Trust
- Powers of Attorney for Finances or Health Care
- Living Will or Advance Health Care Directive
- Property Deeds
- Appraisals of Valuables
- Bank and Brokerage Statements
For most of these, the original will need to be available to avoid any delays or problems with probate or transfer of assets.
How Can I Be Sure that there are Safe Copies in Case of Damage or Loss? An estate plan cannot be implemented unless there are verified originals or copies. If your attorney prepared the documents, then they will may keep the original and give you a copy. Or, you may have the original and your attorney will have a copy. If you have your original documents, you need to think about how to secure those documents.
Safe deposit boxes in a bank are one good option, as long as someone has a key and can gain access. If the original is retrieved, then a copy still needs to be kept in the box. You can store documents in a fire-proof safe in your home or office, but at a minimum you should have copies in another location or with a trusted family member. Finally, scanned copies of your estate planning documents can be scanned and stored electronically as a backup.
The Year End Review with an Estate Planning Attorney – If you are unsure if you have all the documents that you need in your estate plan, or how to store them securely, now is a good time for a year-end review with an estate planning attorney.
If you don’t have an attorney, please contact Attorney Andrea K. Shoup at 951-445-4114 for a consultation so that we can give you peace of mind going into the holiday season.