What Can Happen When Your Loved Ones Don’t Know Where to Find Your Estate Planning Documents?
It’s common sense to let your loved ones know where you keep your will, living will and other vital estate planning documents. Despite careful and thorough estate planning, your attorney can run into barriers when administering your estate if they do not have your original documents in their possession.
Forbes magazine published an article that discussed various mistakes celebrities made in estate planning. One example is Florence Griffith Joyner, nicknamed FloJo, a glamorous U.S. track sprinter known for setting a record as the first American woman to bring home four Olympic medals. In 1998, at the age of 38, she died unexpectedly due to an epileptic seizure.
- Although FloJo wrote a will, she never told anyone where she kept it. Consequently, her husband missed the 30-day filing deadline required by California law.
- Disputed issues between her husband and mother led to contesting the estate in probate court.
- If the court had a copy of the original will, it is likely the matter would have resolved quickly. Instead, the case dragged on for four years in the probate system at both parties’ expense.
Part of thorough estate planning includes keeping legal documents in a secure place and informing family members where to locate them. Today, we have online registries where loved ones can access documentation. Safety deposit boxes or fireproof containers in your office or home are often good places to store original estate planning documents. If you use a safety deposit box, Florida allows your relatives to access your safety deposit box along with a bank executive after your death to look for your will and any life insurance policies that might be there. And, that can be done, under the right circumstances without a court order. Another way to have access to originals is to have your estate planning attorney keep a signed copy of all your estate planning documents.
Although accessibility to your will, trust or other documents may seem like a minute detail, it can turn into a costly ordeal. When you discuss estate planning with an experienced lawyer, address the best way for securing and accessing your legal documents.