Just how safe are your legal documents, should a disaster strike? Just recently we’ve seen the massive destruction caused by forest fires here in California, while earlier this year we saw the havoc that was wreaked all across Florida by Hurricane Michael. People lost homes, possessions, and priceless valuables, as well as the countless legal and financial documents. The loss of those documents will cause a lot of problems after the destruction has been cleared, which is why it’s important to make sure you protect those documents.
Many people keep two sets of original legal and financial documents, a main set and a backup. Most estate and elder law attorneys will provide multiple original copies of your estate planning documents for you to keep and may store an additional set of your copies in their own protected vaults. That being said, there may only be one original copy each of your Last Will and Testament and Revocable or Irrevocable Trust for legal reasons. It’s a best practice to speak with your estate and elder law attorney to settle on the safest place to store your original documents.
You have several options open to you for storing your other legal documents, including your Power of Attorney and Living Will. As noted above, you can leave one set with your attorney and store the other set in a personal safe or safety deposit box. Before you store the documents yourself, you should consider what works best for your personal situation. You may feel more comfortable storing your document in a safe deposit box at a bank than keeping them at your own house if you do not have a safe. However, if you choose to keep the documents in your own home safe, make sure that it is both fire and flood proof. While this is still no guarantee since these safes are only rated for a certain amount of time and heat, it still provides more safety than a standard fire resistant safe or cabinet.
You may also want to consider online cloud storage for your legal documents. While original documents cannot be stored in the cloud, copies may still be made accessible for those who need them. With that being said, you should be sure that the people who will need your documents know where to find the documents and can easily access them in the case you become incapacitated or pass away.
If you would like to learn more about preparing for the unexpected with your legal documents, or if you’d like to have your current estate plan reviewed to make sure it matches your current situation, please set up an appointment at our Los Angeles County estate planning lawyers by calling (818) 905-6088.