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Where to Store Your Estate Planning Documents

By Lane V. Erickson, Idaho Estate Planning Attorney

At the Racine law office, we have been providing exceptional legal advice and counsel to our clients about estate planning for more than 70 years. During this time, we have assisted numerous clients in creating their own personalized estate plans. We have also helped our clients complete the probate process after a family member or loved one passes away. We are the premier estate planning and probate law firm in Idaho.

Our team of skilled and experienced lawyers includes partners Randy Budge and Lane Erickson and attorneys Nathan Palmer and Dave Bagley. Each of the lawyers on our team has received the highest ratings for their ethics and legal abilities in helping clients reach their goals. Because of this, we are confident that we can help you too.

One of the basic questions that comes up regularly is what our clients should do with their estate plan once it is completed. In other words, where should they store their plan so that it would be available to their family when needed? This article is designed to answer this question and to give you some ideas of the things that you should do with your estate-planning once it is completed.

Copy of Estate Planning Documents

After we have completed a plan for a client, we take great care in making sure that it is properly organized in an estate planning binder. The binder starts with a letter of instructions that explains what each of the estate planning documents are that are in the binder and what these documents can do for our clients.

The binder is also organized with tabs. An index at the beginning of the binder explains which documents are behind which tabs. The documents in the tabs are a complete copy of our client’s estate plan including their last will and testament, durable power of attorney, their living will, power of attorney for health care, and any trusts that our clients have created.

When we prepare the binder, we also ask our clients whether they want any additional copies of their estate plan to be made. Many of our clients will provide a copy of their estate plan to the individuals they have appointed to help them. This may include the person they’ve chosen to be the personal representative or that they’ve assigned their powers of attorney to. Additionally, many of our clients will create a copy of their estate plan to give to their children, or to place in a safe deposit box.

It’s important to remember that once you have completed an estate plan, that plan, and the documents associated with it are your own personal property. You have the ability to control who receives a copy of those documents, and where those documents are stored.

Original Estate Planning Documents

Above, we described the binder that we create for our clients when we complete an estate plan for them. It’s important for our clients to understand where their original documents are located because when needed, they usually have to have the original documents with them.

The original durable power of attorney and living will and power of attorney for health care are placed in the back pocket of the binder we give to our clients. The reason we give the originals to our clients is that if there is an emergency, and their spouse, or children, or other person appointed as their power of attorney needs to help them in some way, they need immediate access to the original power of attorney documents. The instruction letter at the beginning of the binder explains that this is where the original documents are located.

However, things are a little different when it comes to the original last will and testament. Again, because this document is the property of our client, they are in complete control of where this document is stored. To keep things simple, we recommend that our clients allow us to store their original Will in our fireproof filing system.

We believe allowing the attorney to store the original Will is the best option. The reason for this is that when needed, which is after our client passes away, the original Will must be filed with the court in order to properly begin and complete the probate process. Often, when our clients take the original Will with them, it is misplaced, or lost, or destroyed. Additionally, sometimes dishonest individuals will remove or destroy it intentionally. Because of this, the safest and best place for the original Will is with the attorney who created it.

Letter of Instructions

The final document that is often used as part of estate planning is our client’s letter of instructions. This usually includes instructions about whether or not they want a funeral, whether or not they want to be cremated, where they would like to be buried, what type of memorial service or funeral program they would like, and many other types of instructions as well. This document should also be kept in the binder. Additionally, copies of this letter of instruction should be provided to other family members and loved ones.

Many of our clients want their final instructions listed as part of their Will. This is fine; however, we point out to our clients that often, the memorial or funeral services and preparations and disposition of the body are usually done before the family reviews the written Will. If the only instructions are left in the Will, it’s possible that they may not be consulted until after everything is done. This obviously defeats the purpose of having a list of instructions in the first place.

If you have questions about how you should store your estate planning documents, we can help. We have assisted numerous clients in the creation of their own estate plans and determining how best to store their plan and we are confident that we can help you too.

Enlist an Idaho Estate Planning Attorney to Help You

Our team of Idaho lawyers can help you with any of your estate planning or probate needs. Whether you are seeking to create or review an estate plan for yourself or would like to help a loved one, we are available to discuss your options and answer your questions at an initial free 30-minute consultation. Call us toll free at 877.232.6101 or 208.232.6101 for a free consultation. You can also email us directly at lane@racineolson.com or stop by our office at 201 East Center Street, Pocatello, Idaho 83201. We will answer your questions and help you solve your Idaho Estate Planning problems.

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