For Thanksgiving this year, my family and I visited my parents in Florida. There were the usual Thursday morning holiday activities; catching up on family gossip and preparing enough food for a small army, all accompanied by the sound of marching bands from a TV tuned to the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day parade. In the midst of all this, my father asked me to follow him to the spare bedroom.
In the closet, along with my parents’ out of season clothes, was his gun safe. That’s a bit of a misnomer since it contains more jewelry than guns. My mother can’t walk by a jewelry store without going inside “just to look”. Anyway, after showing me how to open it, he showed me the shelf where he kept their wills, life insurance policies, and other important documents.
If you don’t already know where your parents keep their estate planning documents, why not take a moment during your next conversation with them to find out. And if you have adult children, do they know where your documents are located?
What You Should Store
In addition to your wills, trusts, and life insurance, what other documents and information should you file away? There are a number of thorough checklists online including this one.
Where You Should Keep the Will
It’s important to keep the original copy of your wills and trusts in a secure location. I recommend for most people to keep them in their home. Store them in a firebox or fire-proof safe and make sure your loved ones know how to gain access. Some attorneys will also hold the original copy although this practice is not as common today as it once was.
What About a Safe Deposit Box?
A safe deposit box is a nice place to store many of your documents and small valuables. However, a will is not one of them. The reason is that, in addition to having the key, the survivor who is attempting to gain access may need to have been previously authorized with the bank. If they are not, then they will likely need to produce a court document granting them authorization. The court usually wants the original will to create this document. If the original will is in the safe deposit box…well, you get the idea.
If you want to keep your will in a safe deposit box, check with the bank on how your survivors may gain access when the time comes.
Now that you’ve gathered all your important documents and information, you should organize them. A solid organization system will make it easier for you to update and your loved ones more confident that they aren’t missing anything.
If you’re old school, then a 3-ring binder with labeled and tabbed dividers works well. If technology is your friend, then something like Everplans may be more to your liking.
A little preparation now, whether you’re helping your parents get organized or letting your adult children know where to find your important information, will make it less stressful down the road.