Q&A: Where should you keep your estate planning documents?

Dear Liz: What do you do with your will or living trust once it’s created? Do you put the document in your home safe or a safe deposit box at the bank? Leave it with a friend or relative? What’s to prevent someone who has access to your property from destroying that document? I heard of such a case where the will was never found and the wrong relative took everything.

I imagine you could leave it with your attorney with instructions to ensure it is abided by upon your death. But who will contact the attorney after your death to ensure your wishes are abided by? I know the coroner won’t do it, nor a funeral home.

Answer: Definitely don’t put the original document in a safe deposit box. Once notified of your death, your bank will typically seal the box until your executor can prove they have the legal right to retrieve it — and that will be complicated if the document naming them as executor is in the box.

Keeping the original in your own safe is better than leaving it at the bank, but still not ideal if you fear someone with bad intent could access it. For most people, the best option is to leave the original with their attorney. You can provide copies to your executor and other trusted people and give them your attorney’s contact information.

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