You did your due diligence and completed your basic estate planning documents — and then some. You feel like you and your estate are in pretty good shape right now.
So, where should you store all these important documents? Should you put them in your safety deposit box?
Be careful what you put into a safety deposit box
While safety deposit boxes do serve many purposes, there are some documents that absolutely should never be stored in them. They include:
- Powers of attorney – When you designated someone as your power of attorney, that was so they could step in if you become incapacitated. The problem with keeping the original, notarized copy of the document in your safety deposit box is that if you are comatose or in the throes of dementia, the POA will be inaccessible to the one who needs to use it to manage your affairs.
- Living wills – A living will details the type of end-of-life care and resuscitative efforts that you want to be carried out and under what circumstances. For instance, maybe yours states you don’t want a feeding tube but do want hydration as you approach your final days. If that living will is in your safety deposit box, no one will be able to carry out your preferences.
- Last will and testament – After you die, your bank accounts and safety deposit box will be frozen until the executor of your will can show their right to access them. As you can imagine, this can become a Catch-22 situation wherein the executor is unable to prove they are able to access them because the document appointing them your executor is blocked from entry.
How to avoid access problems
There are a couple of options, like making sure the attorney who drew up the estate planning documents for you keeps a certified copy of all of them. But if you suffer an incapacitating illness or accident while the office is closed, that’s problematic.
Your best bet is to keep the originals of your will and other important documents in a safe place in your home where those who will need them to get to them quickly in an emergency.