Where Should I Put my Estate Planning Documents?

The original, signed estate planning documents should be kept in a place in which (1) the risk of loss or destruction of the will is reduced to a minimum, (2) the will is accessible to the testator and to the executor at the testator's death, and (3) the will is not accessible to persons adversely affected by it.

Thus, a safe deposit box would be an appropriate place for your will. With a safe deposit box, the risk of loss or destruction is minimized and those who are adversely affected by it will not have access unless you permit them to. Moreover, you will maintain access to the safe deposit box.

Importantly, whoever your executor is, will be able to access this after your death. Under Probate Code Section 331, this person can provide your death certificate and proof of identity prior to being appointed in a probate proceeding, and obtain access to your safe deposit box solely to retrieve your will and to deliver it to the court. Importantly, while accessing your safe deposit box, the person is not permitted to remove any other contents, and the financial institution is required supervise and to keep a record of this transaction.

Alternatively, if you have a trust, the successor trustee should be able to obtain access to your safe deposit box through small administration, if applicable.

Aside from this, you may store it with your attorney if your attorney offers such a service. Sometimes there is a storage fee for this.

Alternatively, you may find a place that meets the above requirements and store your estate planning documents there.

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