Where Should I Keep My Estate Planning Documents

One of the last issues I discuss with my estate planning clients after they have signed their documents is where to store the documents. The documents to be stored are generally the originals of the will, trust, powers of attorney and health care directives.
The first piece of advice I give clients may seem obvious, but often is not and that is to store the documents in a place that they can remember. And that usually means separate from other documents like life insurance policies and pension plan documents. Those documents can be stored alongside but should be separate from your estate plan.
Wherever the client decides to store the documents, the client should feel comfortable that they are secure. A safety valve that I recommend is to mail a letter to a friend or family (who might also be your trustee or executor) telling them where the documents can be located. Just be sure to send another letter to them if the documents are moved.
I usually advise clients to avoid safe deposit boxes for a couple of reasons. First, it requires your family to know where you bank and at which branch your box is located. Second, they may need the documents in the safe deposit box (original will for example) to be appointed by the court to actually get in the safe deposit box.
I have been asked before to hold onto documents for clients, but my firm’s policy is not to do that. For one thing, if the documents need to be found years from now, it will almost certainly be easier for you find your own paperwork than to find the attorney who prepared the documents. The other problem I have with this is that the client or their family might need the documents in a true emergency but I am not immediately available. Some attorneys will hold documents, most prefer not to for the same reasons. There is online storage technology sprouting up and I expect that will become a more common way to store documents in the future.