Where to Keep Your Documents
If your family can't find your will, trust, or your important paperwork, your property may not be distributed in the way you planned. Your family's first job after you are gone is to find your paperwork. This may not be as easy as it sounds. As discussed in Chapter 9, there are numerous places where you might keep your paperwork: in your home, with your lawyer, filed with your local probate court, or in your safe-deposit box.
There is no one right answer as to where you should keep your original documents and your important papers. But after you have weighed the advantages and disadvantages of each option, make a decision and be sure to inform your family.
If you keep your original documents in your home, you need to make sure that your family knows where to find them. You may think your desk or home office is very organized, but everybody has a different filing system. What makes sense to you may not be what your family expected.
The notebook is a highly recommended method of staying organized. Your original documents can be neatly placed in your notebook, along with your other important papers. If something happens, your family will know exactly where to look.
If you keep your original documents at home, you do run the risk that if something happens to your home, your documents will be destroyed. This isn't very likely, but it could happen. Or perhaps you think that because your spouse knows how to find your documents, you are prepared. However, if something happens to both you and your spouse, the rest of the family might not know where to look.
With the Lawyer
You could leave your original documents with your lawyer. Your lawyer will be happy to keep your original will or trust. It is unlikely, however, that the lawyer will want to become the custodian of your other important documents, such as your life insurance policies, retirement plans, annuities, information about your financial accounts, or investments. Also, when you leave your original documents with your lawyer, your family typically feels obliged to hire that lawyer to handle your affairs after you are gone.
Filed with the Probate Court
If you have a will, you can place the original on deposit with your local probate court. This prevents anyone from tampering with your will, and your family will have easy access to the document after you are gone. You need to be sure your family knows that's where the will is stored. Again, however, your local probate court will not become the custodian of any of your other important papers.