Clients often ask where original estate planning documents - Wills, Trusts, Powers of Attorney, and Healthcare Directives - should be stored for safekeeping. While there is no right or wrong answer to this question, consider the following:
Should you store your original estate planning documents in your safe deposit box?
Should you store your original estate planning documents in your home safe?
Should you ask your estate planning attorney to store your original estate planning documents?
Should you ask your corporate trustee to store your original estate planning documents?
Regardless of where you decide to store your original estate planning documents, make sure your family members, a trusted friend or advisor, or your estate planning attorney know where to find them. Otherwise, if your original documents can't be easily located, then it may be legally presumed that you no longer liked what they said and purposefully destroyed them.
After a loved one dies, you need to gather the important documents that are necessary to settle their final affairs. While the documents required will vary depending on what your loved one owned and owed, below is a list of common documents you will need to find:
Life Insurance Policies
Deeds for Real Estate
Automobile and Boat Titles
Stock and Bond Certificates
Estate Planning Documents
Other Legal Documents
As you can see, a significant amount of paperwork is involved. For even a small estate, you should set up a filing system for the deceased loved one's affairs. This can help ensure that nothing gets missed and that administration costs can be minimized.
Like any other complex subject, estate planning has its share of myths and misconceptions. Understanding the top three estate planning myths will help you to create and maintain a plan that will work the way you expect it to work when it's needed.
Estate Planning Myth #1 - You Don't Need an Estate Plan Because Your Spouse Will Inherit Everything
A common belief is that if you're married and you don't have a Will or a Trust, your spouse will still inherit everything. Unfortunately, this is not always the case. Who will inherit your estate even if you're married depends on many different factors, including how your property is titled, who you have named on your beneficiary designations, and the laws of the state where you live and any other state where you own property. The only way to ensure that your spouse will inherit everything is to sit down with an experienced estate planning attorney who will help you create an estate plan that will meet all of your goals.
Estate Planning Myth #2 - You Don't Need an Estate Plan Because Your Family Knows Your Final Wishes
You've shared your final wishes with your family and you're confident that they'll "do the right thing" after you die. Unfortunately, without having these wishes written down in a valid Will or a valid Trust, your family may not be able to fulfill your intentions for several reasons. First, how your property is listed will determine who inherits it, not who you've told your family you want to inherit it. In addition, if you fail to complete or update the beneficiary designations for assets such as bank accounts and life insurance policies, your family won't have any authority to tell the bank or insurance company who should inherit the proceeds. Finally, without an estate plan, the laws of the state where you live and any other state where you own property will dictate who inherits your probate estate, not your family. The only way to ensure that your property will go to your intended heirs is to sit down with an experienced estate planning attorney who will help you create an estate plan that will meet all of your goals.
Estate Planning Myth #3 - Once You've Created Your Estate Plan, It's Done
Suppose that you've taken the time to sit down with an experienced estate planning attorney and create an estate plan that meets all of your goals. You may think that now you can sit back and relax because your estate plan is done. While this attitude may seem reasonable, unfortunately as the years go by, your life and the laws governing wills, estates, probate, trusts, and death taxes will continue to change, which means that eventually your estate plan will become out of date. The only way to ensure that your plan will work the way you intend it to work is to pull it out of the drawer every few years and have it reviewed by your estate planning attorney.
Final Thoughts About Estate Planning Myths
These are only three of the top estate planning myths. Unfortunately, there are many more. The only way to separate the myths from the reality and get a plan that will work for you and for your family is to retain the services of an experienced estate planning attorney.