Having a comprehensive estate plan won’t do you much good if no one can find it. Making and distributing copies of your estate planning documents are an incredibly important part of making sure your wishes are both known and followed. Here’s what you should know:
Where should you store your estate plan?
Make sure you keep your plan in a secure place. Generally, that’s at home in a safe or in a bank in a jointly-owned safe deposit box. For married couples, it’s important that each spouse knows the location of both Wills (they can certainly be in the same place) and for unmarried folks, it’s smart to keep your original with a family member, your executor, or your estate planning attorney.
How do you make copies ?
This is a tough question as laws here vary state by state. You should know that even a simple photocopy is better than nothing at all. Also, if there are any issues, two documents, say one held by your attorney and another held by your doctor, can be compared against each other to prove that the copies are true and legitimate.
Sometimes, this means getting official copies through a notary or even signing a couple copies of each during the original signing session. After all, you’re already in the room with witnesses. Why not have a few back ups?
Who should get the copies?
There’s a little wiggle room here on where to keep your original estate plan and who should get copies. This is definitely something that varies depending on your situation. In addition to distributing your estate plan to those you’re closest to (like family or close friends), you should also consider giving it to a few qualified professionals. Here are a few ideas:
- Executor: Since your executor will be responsible for making sure your wishes are respected, make sure they have at least a copy, if not the original estate plan. It’s also a great idea to make sure your estate planning attorney and your executor are in touch and have each other’s current contact information.
- Family: Your spouse, children, and other close family members will be the ones most affected by your estate plan. Make sure they have copies to reference if needed.
- Your Physician: It’s a great idea to make sure your primary care doctor has a copy of your Power of Attorney and especially your Living Will. Talk about what your wishes are, the type of care you expect, and the procedures you’d like to avoid.
- Your Attorney: Lastly, make sure your attorney has a copy. He or she will be able to distribute further copies to parties who need them (such as a probate court) and can take the lead, along with your executor, in making sure your wishes are respected.
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