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Storing Your Estate Planning Documents

Many people think that a Will, Enduring Power of Attorney and Personal Directive documents should be stored in a safety deposit box in a bank somewhere. But this mentality if flawed.

The reason it is flawed is because typically only the registered names on a safety deposit box can access the contents of that box. If you are named as the Attorney in a person’s Enduring Power of Attorney, but you are not registered on the safety deposit box, and the original Enduring Power of Attorney documents are inside that box, you do not have authority to gain access to retrieve them without showing Proof of Death. But an Enduring Power of Attorney only kicks in when the person is alive but lacks mental capacity to handle financial matters, so there is no proof of death, because there is no death.

Essentially you will be in for a fight with the bank for access. And it will be a cyclical fight: where they will not recognize you as the Attorney if you do not have the original Enduring Power of Attorney to show them, but you cannot obtain the original because it is in the safety deposit box and the bank wont allow you access. The same goes for the Personal Directive documentation, which also kicks in when someone is alive, but lacks mental capacity to make personal and health care decisions for themselves.

There are other places that may be more suitable to store your estate planning documents. Places such as a fire proof safe, a fire proof filing cabinet, or even in a water proof container (a large Ziploc bag) in your freezer. Wherever you store these documents, please let your Attorney, Agent and Executor know where they are and how they can gain access to them.

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