As parents, one of the most enjoyable memories we can create during this time of the year is to watch our children’s excitement as they find the hidden treasures of the annual Easter egg hunt and their screams of delight when they open up each egg to find chocolates, trinkets, and other goodies inside.
What parents never want to do is to keep that egg hunting tradition years later, when they have passed, and their now-adult children have to search high and low for important estate planning documents. The grief of losing a parent can be overwhelming enough without the added burden of searching through drawers and cabinets trying to locate critical information and documents your children will need to settle your estate.
The following tips can ensure that not only are your documents safely protected, but also easily accessible when the time comes they are needed.
Many documents, such as wills, trust papers, life insurance policies, power of attorney documents, and medical directives will all have an original hard copy document that you needed to sign. There are several places where you can store these documents in order to make it easy for your family access to them:
- Fireproof and waterproof safe in your home. Make sure that you let your loved ones know where the safe is located, as well as the location of the key or combination to open the safe.
- Safe-deposit box at a bank. Although this will keep your documents safe and secure, your loved ones may have a difficult time accessing the box without a court order that allows them to do so. Consider having your adult child or other trusted person as a co-signer on the box in order to avoid this problem.
- Your estate planning attorney’s office. This is just one more benefit to having a qualified attorney helping you with preparing your estate plan. Your attorney will also have all these documents in your file and all your family will have to do is make a phone call to that attorney in order to obtain the documents they need.
Storing Documents Digitally
Many people also store their important documents in digital formats. Some options for digital storage include loading the documents onto an external hard or USB drive and keeping in a safe location, using a document management software system, or a cloud-based system. If you do decide to use one of these options, it is also important to let your loved ones know what your passwords are for these services and/or where you have stored the external hard drive.