Clients often ask us where they should keep the original, paper documents that they have signed. As with most answers that lawyers give, the answer here is also “it depends.”
Like so many other questions that clients ask during the estate planning process, the client needs to strike their own, personal balance between security and convenience.
There are at least two low-cost options that meet most people’s needs.
- A fireproof safe located in a secluded room of the home. A small, basic safe does not have to cost a lot of money, and it will protect the documents from the elements. However, make sure that trustees and agents know where the safe is and what the combination is. It is also important to remember that these portable safes are sometimes taken during any type of home invasion.
- Airtight bag in a freezer. Home freezers often withstand disasters like fire, flood and bad weather and are not portable like small safes. Placing documents in a freezer also eliminates the need to share information like a combination.
In addition to securing original documents, it is highly recommended that clients send a digital copy of their Statutory Durable Power of Attorney to the agents named in the document. They should also send a digital copy of the Combination Directive to Physicians and Family or Surrogates and Medical Power of Attorney (and HIPAA Release Authorization) to the agents named in the document, their primary care physicians, and any regular medical specialists that they see. If clients email a copy of these documents to their agents, their agents will have it easily accessible in any emergencies.
If your original documents get lost, destroyed or damaged, it is EXTREMELY important to re-execute them as soon as possible.