The question of what should be done with estate planning documents after they are created is one of the most common questions estate planners are asked. In short, documents should first be distributed to the appropriate people and agencies, and then they should be properly stored. However, who they should be given to and where they need to be kept varies for different types of documents.
Executed copies of durable general powers of attorney should be given to financial institutions, financial advisors, insurance agents, and all agencies involved with one’s finances or legal affairs. In addition, each agent listed within the document should have a copy. Make sure agents know what powers they have, whether they are immediate or springing powers. Give them the chance to ask any questions they may have ahead of time, and make sure they are able to have the document in hand when they need to use it.
Although it is typically not necessary, durable general powers of attorney are able to be filed at the county clerk’s office. Recording the power of attorney is somewhat expensive, and recording the document makes it accessible to the public. However, you’ll want to file any new or revised power of attorney paperwork if the agent will be transferring real estate or if the principal previously has filed a power of attorney.
Healthcare powers of attorney, however, should not be filed publicly. Each agent listed should have a copy, as well as the doctors, hospital, and any other medical group you see on a somewhat regular basis.
Do Not Resuscitate forms are unique. Original DNR forms should be kept somewhere easily accessible in your home, such as on the front of your refrigerator or by your bedside. The bottom portion of the form can also be worn in a special DNR bracelet.
Finally, the last will and testament is generally only given to agents. Each agent listed within the document (such as executor or trustee) should be given a copy.
It’s up to you if you want to give copies to beneficiaries as well, but keep in mind that beneficiaries may be changed. Knowledge of a previous document that would have had greater benefit for someone may cause problems during probate.
After distributing all necessary documents, it’s important to properly store the originals. If you can, keep the original documents at home, but don’t store them in a safe deposit box since they may not be able to be accessed when they are most needed. Also be sure that each agent has a copy. Although an original will is preferable, a copy of a will is better than nothing for probate.
Make sure the agent knows both the location of your documents and how to access them. If the container your documents are stored in has a lock, the agent should have a key or know where a key is.
With all of the hard work you put into your estate planning, it’s incredibly important to make sure your estate planning documents can be accessed when they are needed.
For help with your estate plan, contact us at Wilson and Wilson Estate Planning and Elder Law, LLC at 708 482 7090 for our main office in LaGrange, Illinois or at 847 656 8958 for our Northbrook, Illinois office.