How to Correctly Store and Distribute Your Estate Plan
elderly couple reviewing estate plan

Estate planning is a process that everyone will go through in their life. Estate planning consists of documenting assets, determining beneficiaries, trustees, and executors, and notarizing the will. After these steps are completed, the estate plan needs to be properly stored to avoid it getting damaged or lost. 

Common Issues

Some people go through the entire process of creating a will, but they do not properly store it. Rosenblum Law deals with these cases commonly. Improper storage of the will may cause it to get lost or destroyed. If the will gets destroyed or lost, the courts may have no choice but to presume there is no will and proceed accordingly, resulting in the estate’s distribution being determined by the state’s intestacy laws. One option we recommend is that the will be stored in a fireproof safe immediately after notarization. 

Not all state disputes arise from a will being lost or damaged. Unfortunately, some people find themselves in a situation involving a bad actor who is upset that they were left out of a will. For example, let’s say that Tom creates a will and leaves everything to only two of his three children. Tom passes away, and the disinherited child finds and destroys the will that states he was not to inherit anything. If the other children cannot prove that the assets only go to them, the court will have to divide the estate evenly, or the other children will need to assert their claim to the inheritance through litigation in court. This goes against what Tom wanted, and this could have been prevented by placing the will in a secure safe and providing his heirs with details on how to retrieve it. 

Storing the Will 

Unfortunately, natural disasters can occur at any time. It’s important to prevent the destruction of the will due to a fire, tornado, hurricane, or flood. Wills can also get misplaced, or purposefully destroyed for personal gain. In order to avoid these circumstances, the estate plan should not only be properly stored but also be copied and divided amongst the beneficiaries. Make sure those receiving the copies are truthful and will follow the instructions as stated in the will. 

It is important to have original copies as well as personal copies. The original copy may help prevent a will from being contested. Personal copies are extra security in case something happens to the originals. Distributing the will to the beneficiaries may also help prevent challenges to it since everyone will know what to expect once it is enacted. 

For example, let’s say Tom leaves everything to his sister, Martha. Tom did not properly store his will. Tom passes away, and Martha cannot find his will. Martha calls Tom’s attorney to try and locate a copy of the will. Tom’s attorney was not required to hold a copy of the will and has not done so. While many firms hold on to a copy of their client’s estate planning documents, the originals are usually given to the client to store appropriately. Depending on the situation, such as when it has been many years since the client created the estate plan, the attorney may not even have copies of the documents to provide to potential heirs. 

Having no luck with the attorney, Martha then talks to other family members and friends, and checks online registries but has no luck finding the will. In this case, absent any evidence of the will, the court will have no choice but to move forward and distribute Tom’s assets according to the state laws. To prevent this situation, Tom should have given Martha instructions on how to locate and get the original will. 

Avoiding Issues

Estate planning is an in-depth process that requires careful consideration. The storage of these documents is of the utmost importance. Failing to store your estate plan properly may result in the wishes not being followed and added stress to your family. It’s also important to distribute copies to the fiduciaries. If handled correctly, estate planning documents will be ready to be used when the time comes. 

At Rosenblum Law, an experienced attorney will guide you through the entire estate planning process, and will advise on how to best store your documents so they are kept safe and accessible. Call us today for a free, initial consultation.

elderly couple reviewing estate plan
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