Storage Options – Both Physical and Digital for Your Estate Planning Documents

August 3, 2022

There are two main objectives when it comes to the proper storage of estate planning documents – (1) preventing it from being lost or damaged; and (2) ensuring that it is accessible when needed. That accessibility may not always be after you pass away. A comprehensive estate plan also provides your protection should you become disabled or incapacitated. The documents need to be accessible should that occur as well.

Does your attorney keep your original documents for you?

This question is often asked during an estate planning consultation. Attorneys prefer to store copies of your estate planning documents which can be used corroborate if needed. It is advised that clients keep their originals. This is best practice for several reasons. First, attorney offices are not static operations. Employees come and go. Locations expand and move. Taking the responsibility of storing valuable original documents for many clients is too risky and cumbersome.

Where is the best place to store original estate planning documents?

Keeping in mind the goals of safe keeping and accessibility, many choose to store these documents in a home safe that is fireproof. Some may trust the person named as executor and allow that person to store the documents in his or her home safe.

Others look to store the documents in a safe deposit box at a financial institution. While they are secure, your executor may experience difficulty gaining access when needed. You need to provide instructions and a key to your executor. He or she will still likely have to access the box in the presence of a bank employee.

What about digital storage options?

Keeping a copy of your estate planning documents in a secure, digital storage plan is a great idea; however, it does not replace the need to secure and access the original document. At least not yet. As our technology improves, our laws will likely evolve to catch up and this may no longer be the case. Storing your estate plan digitally is more than simply saving a copy on your computer or in the cloud. You need to ensure security and proper accessibility when needed.

There are currently three main services that provide secure digital estate plan storage – LawSafe, Everplans and DocuBank. All of them will securely store all of your estate planning documents while allowing restricted access to those you grant permission. Unless you enroll in some type of trigger email program, you still need to notify your executor that the digital storage plan exists. A trigger email is a service that checks up on you periodically and if you fail to respond, it sends an email with access instructions to your chosen recipient.

For more information on creating a comprehensive estate plan and the best way to store your documents, contact the experienced estate planning attorneys at Stouffer Legal in the Greater Baltimore area. You can schedule an appointment by calling us at (443) 470-3599 or emailing us at office@stoufferlegal.com.

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