When a person you love has recently passed away or has become incapacitated mentally, it can be challenging to think about their estate planning documents. It’s crucial you do find these documents for many reasons:
- To make decisions on the person’s behalf
- To access their accounts
- Learn what their wishes were on property and money distribution
When properly prepared, these documents hold a lot of legal weight to ensure you carry out the above tasks. The problem is that, even though they are essential, people may lose them, move them and don’t remember they put them or fail to let others know where these documents are.
If you’re looking for these documents, here are a few places to look:
Lockbox or Safe
The most common place for people to store estate planning documents is a lockbox or personal safe. These items are chosen for being both fireproof and waterproof, protecting important papers and other items. Many estate planning lawyers suggest to clients to use a container such as these.
When searching for a lockbox, look in places where they would have kept their personal stuff, such as the bedroom or attic. They may have also had hidden compartments where they may have stored it. If a person worked from home or had a home office, the documents could be there.
You may find the estate planning documents is with a drafting attorney. Look for a business card or some kind of correspondence letter with their name on it. Reach out to them and see if they know about the documents. They may have developed the paperwork or signed copies.
Of course, they will not provide you with any information if you are not related to the person you are inquiring about or have not been named a fiduciary. You’ll need to reach out to an immediate family member to handle the attorney. If the lawyer has no physical copy, they may have a digital one.
Copies can also help you find the original. It’s possible they handed the originals to another person or organization they noted as their personal representative, power of attorney (financial or medical), successor trustee, etc.
Safe Deposit Box
In the past, lawyers would advise clients to get a bank safe-deposit box to ensure their documents were safe. While this is still a suitable option, it can be tedious if you do not have the correct access information or instructions for the box. You may need a court order to get access to the box. If there is a trustee’s name on the box, this person can provide you access.
What If The Documents Are Just Lost?
If you’re unable to find these documents, it’s best to move forward as if they never existed. You’ll need to start the guardianship process through the courts to care for the mentally-impaired individuals.
In the case of a loved one’s death, you’ll need to start the probate process. Ready yourself here, as the process can be quite tedious. It can also lead to higher tensions with family members, but it’s a process that must be done.
Never try handling the process on your own. Instead, reach out to a team of reputable lawyers experienced with finding lost documents and can help in situations where these documents are missing. At Pratt Law Group, we can help you with your estate planning needs. Call us today at 972-712-1515 or 888-517-4575 to set up a virtual meeting to learn how we can assist you.