You already did the hard work and got your estate planning documents in place. Excellent! Now you have to decide where to keep the documents so they are actually useful if you need them.
Perhaps you received your documents via without ever getting paper records and the documents are still sitting in your inbox, getting more buried every day. If you did receive a beautifully packaged estate plan in an organized binder, it might still be sitting on your desk.
Remember this: an estate plan is only good if someone else can find it. If no one outside of yourself (and your spouse) can find your plan, they won’t be able to use it! So, keep it in a handy place and let others know where it is.
I don’t recommend placing your estate plan in your safe deposit box.
A safe deposit box is hard to access. That’s the point of them, right? So they are not a good place to drop your estate planning documents because if those documents are needed in an emergency, your agents will not be able to get them.
A safe deposit box can also be hard to access after death. A last will and testament is usually required to open a probate estate with the court and give someone authority to open your safe deposit box, but if the will is locked away in a the box itself, the process is much harder.
The best place is a fire-proof safe inside your house.
This is my number one recommendation: a fire-proof safe that you keep inside your house. A fire-proof safe can be purchased for under $100 and is useful for more than just your estate plan. You can keep jewelry, social security cards, birth certificates, and anything else you want to keep safe and secure.
Even a file cabinet is a decent way to store the documents. This is also the first place someone else will look for your documents!
If you only have electronic documents, make sure you keep them somewhere other than buried in your email inbox. You might decide to print them and place them in a fire-proof safe, but short of that, keep them in a place where they are labeled appropriately and easy to find.
Keep the documents in two locations.
It’s always a good idea to keep your documents in more than one location. Keep your paper documents in a fire-proof safe and save an electronic copy on your computer (where they are easily identified and located). Better safe than sorry!
Tell someone else where your plan is located!
This is the most important thing: other humans must know where you keep your plan!
You can do this a few different ways – you can share electronic or paper copies with your named agents, you can let them know where you keep your safe and the keys to unlock it, or you can provide them with a sealed envelope with instructions.
My Personal Asset Inventory document has a handy one-page document that makes it easy for you to tell your trusted family and friends where your important documents are located. (You can download the Personal Asset Inventory for free on my website’s homepage.)