Of all the mistakes you can make with your will & estate planning documents, there is one that is easiest to avoid. Don’t lose them!
If a loved one of yours suddenly died, would you know where to find their estate planning documents? Would someone else know where to find your estate planning documents?
Remember, you won’t be here to say “look in the file cabinet in the basement.”
Don’t just throw your will or estate planning documents in a desk drawer at home. There are several better options of ways you can safeguard your wills and estate planning documents in Maryland, and we will explain them in this post.
File your will with the Register of Wills
Every county in Maryland has a Register of Wills. They are usually located in the courthouse. Most people know this is where you go to open an estate after someone has died. However, most people do not know this is also where you can go to file your will for safekeeping.
The Register of Wills will keep your will on file until you pass away. It will then be available to your heirs. There is a $5 charge for this service. You must bring your will to them in a sealed envelope, and they will have you fill out a form so that you can name the only people who will be allowed access to it before your death.
For the small cost of $5, this is the best way to protect your will and make sure it is available. However, it doesn’t help if you move out of state one day.
Far better than the desk drawer or file cabinet at home is a fireproof safe. Get one that is waterproof too because the fire hose probably ruins more documents than the fire itself.
This is the method we recommend, and it is how we store our own estate documents.
These safes are reasonably priced (under $100) for a size to save a will and some important documents. You should use it to store all of your most important documents, including your will, Social Security cards, passports, etc. etc.
Be aware that different safes have different levels of fire protection. You will pay more for one that is able to withstand flames longer.
If you do have a fireproof safe at home, just make sure someone knows where the key is. If you hide the key so well that your loved ones won’t have access to your safe, then you may as well have tossed your will in the trash.
Bank safe deposit box
A very popular option for storing wills and other documents is a bank safe deposit box. This is a very good way to keep your documents safe. However, it has the same issues as a fireproof safe in your house. How do you make sure someone else has access to it?
Anyone showing up to access the bank safe deposit box will be required to have authorization to access that box. If not, the bank will be forced to refuse to grant access to the box. This is true even if you have the key, and even if they know who you are.
If your heirs do not have the right to access your safe deposit box, the bank will force them to get a court order. Obtaining a court order won’t be very difficult, but it will take time and be expensive. It will be a giant pain in the rear-end for your loved ones.
If you have a bank safe deposit box, make sure you have granted access to those who will most likely need access after you die. Also, make sure they know where the key is.
Give copies of your documents to your heirs now
Why do we resist telling our heirs what our will says? Why do we make it some big mystery to be revealed after we are dead?
This is just tradition, and probably comes from dopey movies where the will of a rich person is read in the lawyer’s office. That doesn’t happen in real life!
Think about this for a second. Why do you need your estate planning documents? They are only going to be necessary after you’re dead. The people who actually need them in their possession are your heirs.
It may be a wise idea to simply give your will and other estate planning documents to your heirs now. However, make sure they also keep those documents safe in one of the ways listed above. It would be tragic for you to give your estate planning documents to someone else, just to have that person lose them in a fire or a flood.
There are many good ways to protect your will and estate planning documents from being lost. We hope this post has given you some ideas.
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