Once you decide to obtain an estate plan, one of the most important decisions that will need to be made after that, is where to store your Will, Trust, Durable Power of Attorney, Designation of Health Care Surrogate, Living Will and/or Deed(s). I usually advise my clients to keep their estate planning documents in a safe deposit box at the bank, since a safe deposit box will protect the documents from fire, water, theft, loss, and other types of damage. If a safe deposit box at a bank or other financial institution is used, then I suggest adding the name of a family member or someone you trust (possibly the Personal Representative of your Will or Trustee of your Trust), as a joint holder on the safe deposit box, since this will allow that person to get into the box quickly at a time of need. If the name of a person you trust is not added as a joint holder, then the person who is trying to access your documents at a time of need may have no choice but to seek Court approval to enter the box; this will require the filing of documents with the Court to seek a Court Order to examine the contents of the box. Not only will this take much longer, but it will most likely result in having to hire an attorney at that time.
Another option would be to keep your estate planning documents in a fire and water proof safe in a secure place, perhaps your home or business. This may be a good option as long as someone you trust knows where you keep the safe and how to access it. However, if thieves enter your home, they will be more likely to take the whole safe – perhaps thinking that you have jewelry or cash stored in the box – unless you have the type of safe that in addition to being fire and water proof is also bolted to the foundation of your home or business.
Although there are companies that offer you the option of storing your documents online (in digital vaults), if the original document(s) cannot be located, a Court will have to determine whether the digital copies are acceptable or not.
Lastly, I have read of people who keep original estate planning documents in an air-tight plastic bag in their freezers. Although they are probably stolen less frequently than safes, for many reasons I would not recommend storing your documents there.
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