CALL NOW FOR A COMPLIMENTARY ESTATE PLANNING CONSULTATION
Share

The Dean Law Firm Blog

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

Preserve and Protect Your Documents

Preserving and Protecting Documents Is Part of Healthy Estate Planning

In the unsettled time after a loved one’s death, imagine the added stress on the family if the loved one died without a will or any instructions on distributing his or her assets.  Now, imagine the even greater stress to grieving survivors if they know a will exists but they cannot find it!  It is not enough to prepare a will and other estate planning documents like trusts, health care directives and powers of attorney.  To ensure that your family clearly understands your wishes after death, you must also take good care to preserve and protect all of your estate planning documents.

Did you know that the original, signed version of your will is the only presumed valid version?  If your original signed will cannot be found, the probate court presumes you intended to revoke your will.  If the probate court makes that decision, then your assets will be distributed as if you never had a will in the first place.  However, it is possible that a copy of the will may be allowed to be probated.  Even if a copy can be located, however, additional proof must be given to establish that the original will was never revoked before it may be admitted to probate.

Where should you keep your original signed will?  There are several safe options – the best choice for you depends on your personal circumstances.

You can keep your will at home, in a fireproof safe.  This is the lowest-cost option, since all you need to do is purchase a well-constructed fireproof document safe.  Also, keeping your will at home gives you easy access in case you want to make changes to the document.  There are two main disadvantages to keeping your will at home:

  • You may neglect to return your will to the safe after reviewing it at home, which increases the risk it will be destroyed by fire, flood, or someone’s intentional or accidental actions.
  • Your will could be difficult to find in the event of your death, unless you give clear instructions to several people on how to find it, which then creates a risk of privacy invasion.

You can keep your will in a safety deposit box.  Most banks have safety deposit boxes of various sizes available to rent for a monthly fee.  Banks, of course, tend to be more secure than private homes, which is one primary advantage.  Also, if you keep your will in a safety deposit box, then after your death, only the Executor of your estate may access the original will.  Thus, the will is strongly protected against alteration or destruction, because family members may have access to a copy but only the Executor will have access to the all-important original.  But be sure to leave written authorization for the person you have named as Executor to have access to your safety deposit box upon showing your death certificate.  Otherwise, it may require a court order to obtain access to your safe deposit box. 

If you do keep your will and other estate planning documents in a safety deposit box, try to do so at the same bank where you keep your accounts and inform your executor of its location.  This will streamline the financial accounting process.

Although some law firms have systems for long-term document storage of original wills, keep in mind that the law firm may dissolve before the willmaker’s death.  This can make it difficult to track down your original will.    

You may also be able to store your will and other documents online.  Many large financial institutions have begun offering long-term digital storage of important documents.  However, any electronic version of your original will is – by definition – a copy, not the original.  So, you still must find a safe place to store the original, signed and witnessed will.  Online storage “safes” may be an excellent back-up, but you must still find a secure place to store the paper originals.

At The Dean Law Firm, PLLC, on-line document storage called "Legal Vault" is available for our Preferred Client Maintenance Program members beginning January 1, 2013.  Using Legal Vault, you can access all your estate planning documents via our website.  Legal Vault also allows healthcare providers special access to only your medical documents, keeping your other estate planning documents private.  Please call to inquire about this secure manner to store a back-up copy of your documents. 


Archived Posts

2019
2018
2017
2016
2015
2014
2013
2012


The Dean Law Firm, PLLC assists clients in Sugar Land, TX and throughout Houston in Fort Bend County and Harris County.



© 2019 The Dean Law Firm, PLLC | Disclaimer
1650 Hwy 6 South, Suite 100, Sugar Land, TX 77478
| Phone: 281-277-3326

Estate Planning | Advanced Estate Planning | Business Succession Planning | Civil Appeals | Probate / Estate Administration | Elder Law | Guardianships | Asset Protection | Special Needs Planning | Planning for Children | About Us | Get Started

Attorney Website Design by
Zola Creative