+“Daddy’s Dyin’ – Who’s Got the Will?” This question sounds familiar to many people, but very few know where it originated. It’s actually a masterful comedy written by
+Del Shores set (where else?) in a small Texas town. The story focuses on the reunion of a family
gathered to await the imminent death of their patriarch who recently suffered a
physically- and mentally- disabling stroke.
Despite the title, the story is really about the rebirth of the spirit
of a family united.
It’s unfortunate, but sometimes it takes the illness or death of a loved one to bring a family together. The first priority in those difficult times should be comforting one another, mending broken relationships, and honoring the deceased. The last thing on anyone’s mind should be, “Who’s got the will?”
This week I want to share practical guidelines with you about where you should store your will, trust, living will, durable power of attorney, and other important estate planning documents. If you think that all of these documents should be locked away in a safe deposit box, think again. It is important for a few of the documents to be readily within reach. This is an article you should cut out, save, and share with your friends and family so no one has problems reaching the important documents when they are most needed. Here are some guidelines:
Rule # 1: Tell your family where you store you legal documents, whether at home, in the bank, or both. Be specific. (“The right upper side of the master bedroom room closet in the red box.”)
Rule # 2: If you already have a safe deposit box: The best place to store your original trust and original will is in the safe deposit box The reason: Banks are generally fire-proof. If your original documents are destroyed, your family can always ask a court to accept a copy of an original or you can redraft your trust as a “restatement”, but it’s always best to safekeep your originals in the first place. Safe deposit boxes offer that extra protection.
Rule # 3: If you don’t have a safe deposit box: It’s okay to keep legal documents at home, but understand that in doing so you are accepting the fire, tornado, or water damage risk. If you live in a single-story home, place the documents on a high shelf, away from any area that might suffer from water infiltration. It’s best to place the documents inside a plastic or metal, water-tight storage box. Fireproof safes are another alternative.
Rule # 4: Keep All Medical Directives at Home, and Take Copies to Your Doctors / Hospitals. Even if you have a safe deposit box, keep your directive to physicians (living will), medical power of attorney, and HIPAA release at home where you can access them 24/7. Many medical emergencies happen at night or on the weekends at a time when banks are closed. What is equally as important is to take copies of these documents to all of your doctors at your next appointment, and ask them to put a copy in your chart. Also take a copy with you to the admissions office any time you have in-patient or out-patient treatment in a hospital.
Rule # 5: Send Copies to the Important Family Members Named to Handle Your Affairs. If someone in your family is trusted enough to be named as executor in your will or trustee of your trust, then they probably should have a copy of all of your estate planning documents now. There are exceptions, of course, so use your own judgment.
Hopefully you and your family will find these guidelines helpful. It will certainly put your minds at ease in the event of a crisis to already know where these documents are, should you need them.
For more information on estate planning and other legal needs, or if you have a legal question you would like for me to address, please visit my website at www.leflerlegal.com, email me at firstname.lastname@example.org, or call me at 512-863-5658. My office is located in Tamiro Plaza, 501 South Austin Avenue, Suite 1320, in Georgetown, Texas.