Many of us have our estate documents all signed, notarized, and ready to go…but have we told our loved ones where to find them? In order to avoid probate, delays or unnecessary confusion it's important to let your executor or successor trustee know where your estate planning documents are located. After all, what good are they if no one can find them? According to Nolo (a leading legal advice website), you should keep wills, trust documents, powers of attorney, and other estate planning documents in the same place. You might consider keeping everything in a fireproof metal box or file cabinet, or with your lawyer.1
Let your family know these documents exist and tell them who knows where they are stored.
You have been helping your family for years, this is simply a final step in that process. Delays in locating these documents could lead to costly losses for your loved ones in the form of unnecessary court costs or unclaimed bank accounts.
As part of our “Life’s Essential Documents” series we have a great fillable summary to aid you in this process. Please print this out, complete it, and let someone you trust know where it is.
It is also important to review your plans regularly. You may have a change of heart about a particular wish, or for a variety of reasons you may need to change your executor or successor trustee. Also, it is important to note that wills and trusts are meant to work together, but if there is dispute, a trust generally takes precedence.2
There's no definitive way to organize all of this information. You can compile it in any way that you think will help your family handle your affairs after your death. Even some scribbled notes left in an accessible location are better than nothing. However, if you have the time and energy for it, consider a more thorough approach.3
This information is not intended to be a substitute for individualized legal advice. Please consult your legal advisor regarding your specific situation.