Where is the best place to keep my signed original estate planning documents?

Once you have signed your estate planning documents, it is important to store them in a safe place. Many people keep their original estate planning documents at home in a secure place, like a fire safe or file cabinet. It is important to make sure to keep your secure place in a place that is less likely to flood (especially in southeast Texas) or be found by thieves.  


Another place is in a safe deposit box. Many like to store their documents in safe deposit boxes because they will protect the documents from theft, fire, accidental loss, and most other types of damage or harm. A potential problem, though, is getting it opened after your death. If you decide to keep your estate planning documents in a safe deposit box, consider naming a family member or your Executor or trustee as a joint holder on the box. That should simplify matters following your death because someone will be able to get into the box without delay. Also, if you live in a flood zone, be sure to put the document in a water-tight plastic bag. As many shocked clients have learned, water damage caused by flooding can ruin the contents of a safe deposit box.


An additional option with regard to a Will is to deposit it with the county clerk’s office. Taking this approach can be a great idea, except that you need to be sure your records at home clearly indicate where the original can be found. Moving to a different county or changing your Will can cause problems as well.


More people than you would expect keep original Wills and other estate planning documents in an air-tight plastic bag at the bottom of their freezers. Freezers are well insulated and heavy, and have a way of withstanding fires, hurricanes, and tornadoes. Also, they don’t die or move away, and they are stolen far less frequently than in-home safes.

Make sure that you store your documents in a place that you believe to be safe and where you family/executor can find them when they are needed.