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Best practices for storing and sharing estate planning documents

On Behalf of | Apr 18, 2017 | Firm News, Wills |

Most people in Ohio tend to experience some discomfort when thinking about their end-of-life affairs, but estate planning professionals emphasize the need to inform heirs or executors of wills of the location of documents such as wills, powers of attorney and medical directives. If no one knows where the estate plan is kept, then the probate court might consider the person intestate.

Storing these important documents in a safe or fireproof box at home represents the best choice because they can be accessed at any time. During a medical emergency, the person charged with making decisions for the incapacitated person would need to get the original copy of a medical power of attorney without delay. Experts discourage using safe deposit boxes at banks because of the limited hours of access. A bank might also require a court order to allow an heir access to the safe deposit box, which could be difficult to obtain if the documents naming the heir are locked away.

People need to make their heirs aware of the location of documents and provide a key to unlock a box or combination to open a safe. Copies of the documents should also be shared with some or all heirs to ensure access to the will. If a person updates a will, however, all of the old copies must be completely destroyed to prevent different versions of a will coming to light and creating disputes.

Wills enable people to distribute their assets according to their wishes and potentially prevent arbitrary decisions by a probate court. A person who wants to write a will and create an estate plan could work with an attorney. An attorney could inform the person about important issues like contingent beneficiaries, tax consequences for heirs and methods for transferring wealth privately.

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