Liz Weston: The debate continues on the best place to keep your wills or trust documents
Dear Liz: You recently advised someone to leave their original will with their lawyer.
As a practicing lawyer, I cannot tell you how many times the original wills and trusts have been lost because the lawyer who prepared the documents retired or died before the client. There are requirements for notifying clients of a retirement, but very few lawyers follow these rules, unfortunately.
The best thing to do is buy a home safe or put documents in double-zippered freezer bags in your freezer (which should be fireproof and are a great way to keep documents).
Or, hire a younger lawyer who will always be there when you want to change your will or trust or if you pass away.
Responnse: Thanks for sharing your perspective, but freezers are not fireproof. A fireproof safe would be a better option for those who want to keep their wills at home.
Unfortunately, there is no perfect option for keeping wills. You’re absolutely right that people often don’t stay in touch with the lawyers who create their documents, even though estate plans need to be reviewed and updated on a regular basis. The risk of losing a will may not be as high if the lawyer is part of a large firm, but even such firms may go out of business.
Some states allow you to file your will in advance with the probate court or a registrar of wills, so this is another possibility to consider.
Dear Liz: You recently advised against keeping your will in the bank safe. This was on the grounds that in the event of death, the bank could seal the box. My daughter is named on my box (she is also named executor) – that is, the bank put her through several hoops, and the result is that she can access the box as she does. wish. Is your advice valid in this case?
Responnse: Find out what the bank’s policy is. If the bank confirms that your daughter will have access in the event of death, ask that the insurance be put in writing.
One of the problems with keeping anything in a safe is that the contents can be escheated – turned over to the state – if the bank decides the safe has been abandoned. This usually won’t happen if you pay the box bill on time and make sure the bank has up-to-date contact details, but physically checking the box’s contents once a year or so is a good practice.
Liz Weston, Certified Financial Planner, is a personal finance columnist for NerdWallet. Questions can be directed to him at 3940 Laurel Canyon, No. 238, Studio City, CA 91604, or by using the “Contact” form at asklizweston.com.