Skip to Main Content

What do you do with your estate documents?

You’ve been smart and you’re prepared — you’ve been to an attorney and have your estate plans drawn up, including a will and powers of attorney for financial matters and health care.

Now, what do you do with all the paperwork? You want to keep things secure — but you also want to make sure that your heirs have access to whatever they need to handle your final affairs.

Safety boxes at banks have long been a preferred method of storage for important papers — but they’re not good places for documents like your powers of attorney and a living will. Those kinds of documents need to be accessible in an emergency, and you can’t count on emergencies to happen during banking hours.

In addition, storing things in a safety deposit box is tricky if you want someone besides you to be able to access them. Unless you have a co-owner on the record, no one can access the safety deposit box once you’ve died. If you do have a co-owner, you’re automatically giving that person unfettered access to whatever else you keep in the box, which may not be convenient for you.

Some people turn to home safes or filing cabinets as an option. If you decide to go that route, just make sure that your heirs and executor know where to find the keys and how to get the documents out safely. It may be wise to make a copy of everything and have it stored electronically, as well.

For more ideas on what to do about your most important end-of-life documents, talk to your estate planning or elder law attorney for advice.