So, your estate planning documents are all drawn up and signed, and you’re wondering where the best place to keep them is. The most important thing is to keep them in a place where they’ll be safe and where your close family or your executor or trustee can get to them quickly should the need arise.
Your first option is one that a lot of people use: a safe deposit box. This will keep your documents safe, but it might not make them as accessible as they need to be. If the box is in your name only, then after you die, no one will be able to get into it without a court order. Of course, if the box is in the joint names of you and your spouse, or you and your executor, then the accessibility problem is solved, because they’ll still have access to the box after your death.
If you choose not to keep your estate planning documents in a safe deposit box, then you’ll want to find a safe place to keep them at your home. Your main concerns will be keeping them safe from fire, theft, and water damage. You may want to keep them in a locked, fireproof safe. If you don’t have a safe, and want to keep your estate planning documents with your other important papers, make sure to keep them off the ground, on a high shelf or in a top file cabinet, so that they’ll be as safe as possible from water damage in case of a flood.
No matter where you decide to keep your documents, it’s important that you let someone know where they are. All the careful planning in the world will be useless if no one can find your paperwork when it’s needed. If there are no documents to be found, the court will presume that you died without an estate plan, and will proceed accordingly.