If you watch a lot of television dramas, you might think that everyone who has a will has a lawyer looking after it — or, at the very least, a wall safe where it can be kept away from prying eyes and meddlesome relatives.
In reality, that’s not how it usually works. Most people aren’t exactly sure what to do with their wills and other estate planning documents once they get finished making them.
What are your options for storing your will and other important documents?
Your attorney’s office
Some attorneys do offer people the option of storing their estate planning documents or wills. (Some do not.) If the attorney’s office is well-established, you may feel comfortable leaving your original documents there for safekeeping. However, you need to make sure that your relatives know which attorney to contact when you die. Otherwise, the documents may come to light too late to be of use.
If you trust someone to be the executor of your estate, you probably trust them to keep your estate documents safe. This is often a very good option because your executor is probably in a prime position to know if something happens to you.
Your home safe
If you have a home safe, you might be tempted to keep your original documents in it. However, home safes — unless they’re built into a wall or floor — can be stolen. You don’t want someone walking off with your will after your death if they walk off with the safe in hopes of finding treasure inside.
Your safety deposit box
Safety deposit boxes are also a problem. After your death, your relatives won’t be able to open one without a court order. You can still use this option, however, if you put someone on the box as a joint owner. If you’re only storing important papers in there, your executor might (again) be a good choice.
Remember: Having a will only helps if you make sure that it can be found by the people who need to use it. Resist the temptation to hide it, even if you are worried about prying eyes. Look toward one of the other solutions listed above, instead. For advice specific to your situation, talk the issue over with your elder law attorney and see what ideas he or she suggests.