So you've taken the steps to meet with an attorney (hopefully Attorney Dalton) and set up your estate plan with the appropriate documents. But what now? Where do you keep them? Who do you tell about them? And are there places you shouldn't keep them?
One of the most important documents in your estate plan is your living will or advanced health care directive. This document outlines your wishes for your medical care in the case that you can no longer make these decisions for yourself. Your living will should be kept with your health care proxy, which appoints another person to make helth care decisions for you in the event that you cannot make them yourself. First and foremost, your health care agent should be notified of his or her appointment. You should also tell them what your wishes are if you become terminally ill and on life support so they may direct the health care providers.
A great place to keep these documents is in a marked envelope on your refrigorator. In the event of an emergency, they will be easy to grab, and if you are being taken to the hospital in an ambulance, the EMTs are more likely to see them.
You should also give a copy of of these documents and other health care related documents, such as a patient authorization form, to all of your doctors so they also know what your wishes are.
Additionally, bring these documents (or copies of them) with you when you travel so that you will easily have access to them should you end up needing to visit a doctor or an emergency room while you are away from home. Make sure to check out our other blog post to find out more about traveling with your documents!
Other estate planning documents, such as wills and deeds, should be kept in a place that is safe and where the necessary people can find them. For these documents to be effective, they need to be accessible so that your family members or friends are able to carry out your wishes. If your family can't find your will, it is effectively useless.
So where do you keep these documents? Many people are tempted to keep their estate planning documents in places such as a bank deposit box. Please don't fall to this temptation though. When it comes time for these documents to be used, there may not be anyone around with access to the safe deposit box and most banks will not allow anyone other than the owner of the deposit box to access it. Instead, keep your documents at home in a fire proof box, which you can buy at Staples. You can grab it in a hurry and the box is easily placed in a closet.
After all the hard work and money spent on preparing estate documents, the last thing you want is for them to go unused because the right people did not have access to them.
All in all, as long as your documents are accessible and you have communicated their whereabouts to the people you've assigned responsibilities to in them, you should be in the clear when it comes time to use your documents.