Even the best estate planning documents will not be effective if they are lost or inaccessible. To help ensure that the documents are available when needed, we offer the following suggestions to our clients:
Storage of Original Documents
We recommend that original Wills be kept in your safe deposit box. Contrary to popular belief, it is not difficult for your executor to access your safe deposit box after your death. As an alternative, in some counties the original will can be deposited with the Clerk of Court for safekeeping. Your executors and/or trustees should be informed of the documents’ whereabouts.
Original Durable Powers of Attorney, Health Care Powers of Attorney, Living Wills (Advance Directives) and Authorizations for Release of Protected Health Information should be kept at home so that they will always be available to present to third parties if necessary.
Storage of Copies
We recommend keeping a compact disc with electronic copies of the documents in a safe deposit box. It is also a good idea to provide the person named in each document as executor, trustee, or agent (under a power of attorney) with a copy of the applicable document(s). We keep a set of copies in our file as well.
Accessibility of Advance Directives
There are three primary options for registration of your Health Care Powers of Attorney and Living Wills so that they will be accessible when needed:
(1) Legal Directives, LLC – This is a private service that provides a somewhat higher level of service. Your documents are faxed to any health care provider world-wide upon request. The wallet cards issued include the name and phone number of your health care agent and our firm’s name and toll-free phone number. The forms are also faxed to your physician. The discounted cost, when registering through our office, is $18 per year.
(2) DocuBank® - Similar to Legal Directives, LLC.
(3) North Carolina Advance Health Care Directive Registry – This registry is maintained by the North Carolina Secretary of State. The documents are available online for health care providers to access. The fee is $10.00 per document.
Registering General Powers of Attorney
Powers of attorney are required to be recorded with the county Register of Deeds when used for a real estate transaction, or when the person who has signed the document becomes incapacitated. The advantage of recording the document right after it is signed is that if the original is lost, a certified copy will be available. The disadvantage is that if you move or change the document, new recordation is necessary. The average cost for recordation of a comprehensive power of attorney is about $75.
Note: We are happy to handle recordation of powers of attorney for you for a charge of $5.00 to cover copying costs and postage.
Review and Updates
We recommend reviewing your estate plan every two years to account for changes in your situation, the law, or just improvements in the services we provide. Clients who choose one of our Family Protection Plans receive three such reviews at no additional charge.