Your estate planning documents are important, and that means you need to keep them someplace where they won’t be lost, destroyed by fire, or damaged in some other way.
You can keep them safe in a safe deposit box at the bank. However, that may not be a good idea. To understand why, we need to look at how these documents are used and how a safe deposit box operates.
What Documents are We Talking About?
Your estate planning documents include your:
- Medical power of attorney
- Financial power of attorney
- Living Will
- Medical privacy authorization
These documents enable your agents to access information, make healthcare decisions, and manage financial matters if you are incapacitated. When you pass away, these documents give your representative the authority to carry out your wishes. To do that, these people need to be able to access the documents when the time comes.
How a Safe Deposit Box Operates
A safe deposit box is a small metal vault that can be rented from a bank or credit union to store valuable items. These vaults usually have dual locks that require two keys to open. The person renting the box will have a key, and the bank will have the other key. Both keys must be used together to open the box. However, the bank does not inspect the contents of the box and once it is opened, employees allow the renter to view the contents in private.
Before the bank will allow the box to be opened, the person presenting the key must also show identification to prove that they have authorization to access the box. Generally, only the person whose name is on the bank documents will be allowed to have access to the box. The person you name as executor or your agent may need to get a court order to access the documents they need. While Maryland law does allow an executor to access a safe deposit box to look for a will, the documents that demonstrate their authority are locked in the box. So, it can be expensive, time-consuming, and difficult for the right people to access estate planning documents when they are locked in your safety deposit box.
If you add the name of someone you trust to the safe deposit box, then they would have access after your death. Of course, it is important to remember that the vault will only be accessible when the bank is open. Many people find that it works better to store their original documents with their estate planning attorney or in a home safe.
Help with Estate Planning
To protect yourself, it is important that you have the right estate planning documents, that these documents are kept up-to-date, and that they are stored safely where the right people can access them.
The team at the Law Office of Ralph W. Powers, Jr., P.C. can review your plan, recommend documents that may need to be added or updated, and help you find the best storage solution for your situation. Contact us now to schedule a consultation.