Your California estate planning documents (the living trust, will, durable power of attorney for property management and advance health care directive) are usually on paper and you want to be sure that they stay safe and can be easily found when your family needs to find them. So, where should you store them?
There are people who store them in very odd places like their freezers. It’s a better idea to keep your originals in a fire-resistant safe in your house and to notify friends and family where they are and how to get it open. Better yet, you can simply keep them in an accessible place where they can easily be found; if they are lost or destroyed before you need them, your estate planning attorney can provide you with another copy.
It is probably not a good idea to store your estate plan in a safe deposit box at the bank. Unless your friends or family are co-owners of the box (and sometimes even if they are), it won’t be easy for them to open it if you’re not there. Having the key isn’t enough to get the bank to open it up for them – the bank wants you to prove that you have the legal authority to require them to open it up. Think about it: the document granting your friends or family the right to act on your behalf as an executor is INSIDE the box, and until the box is opened, they can’t prove that they have the authority to get the bank to open it… (and so on).
Another concern about using a safe deposit box is those small keys to safeguard. Lost keys are create an expensive problem. When you rent a box from the bank, they give you two keys. The only way the box can be opened is when one of your keys and one from the bank are used at the same time. If you lose both of your keys, you have to pay the bank to drill out and replace the lock on the box.
For other information about California estate planning, call an estate tax attorney – call Mitchell A. Port at 310.559.5259.