Going through the steps of creating an estate plan can be complicated, but once you have your documents in place, you and your loved ones can breathe a sigh of relief. Planning documents preserve your wishes and give critical guidance to family in difficult times.
However, the plan may not be useful if no one can find it.
Complications of a lost, hidden estate plan
If you or a loved one has an estate plan that no one is able to find, the process of appointing guardians and distributing your assets can proceed as if you passed away with no will or other documentation. This means the courts will comply with California’s intestacy laws.
These laws dictate who can inherit your property. There is an order of distribution based on whether you have a spouse, descendants, parents and siblings.
Courts can also distribute property to grandparents, uncles and aunts, cousins or other family members of a predeceased spouse. If none of these parties survived the deceased, property can go to the state.
These distributions may not align with your wishes. Someone you don’t even know could wind up with your property while a charity, partner or someone else in your life has no claim to receive your property.
Further, when people cannot find a will, it can drag out the probate process and give parties reason to contest decisions. Any old versions of your will could ultimately dictate what happens.
Thus, having your will updated and in a safe, accessible place is crucial.
Where to keep your will
After creating or revising your will, there are various places you can keep it safe. Some options include:
- In a safe deposit box (as long as someone else has access to it)
- In a secured file on your computer
- With an online archival service
- In a safe in your home
No matter where you keep your estate planning documents, be sure that they are secure, and someone knows where to find them and can access them when the time comes to do so.