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Topic: Safekeeping of Documents


By Milton Babirak, JD, LLM      |      Babirak Carr, PC     |     Sterling, VA

There are several different types of estate planning documents. In addition to a will and/or trust(s), there are durable powers of attorney for financial affairs and healthcare, beneficiary designations, deeds, postmortem letters and other documents. Of course, you want to keep all of your estate planning documents safe. These documents are confidential, and you want to keep them secret. You want to secure them so they are not taken, lost or altered. You want to keep them safe from fire, flood or other calamity. You also want them to be available to your executor, successor trustee or agent in case you are disabled or die.

Safe Deposit Box, Home Safe or Attorney’s Office?

Bank Safe. A safe deposit box at a bank is a pretty good place to keep estate planning documents because a bank is very secure. But it is relatively expensive. The annual fee for the box adds up over the years. Also, going to the bank to get your documents is not as convenient as having them at home.


If you use a bank safe deposit box, who should have access to it? You probably want to name your spouse, next of kin or trusted friend. But what if you are the sole lessee of the box or you are co-lessee and the other co-lessee is not reasonably available? Virginia has a statute that permits a spouse or next of kin to retrieve your will in a safe deposit box upon your death. Section 6.2-2302. This only applies to wills, not trusts. Section 6.2-2303 allows similar access to durable powers of attorney.


Home Safe. A home safe is another common place to keep estate planning documents. It’s cheaper, somewhat fireproof and conveniently in your home. But there are disadvantages. Other family members in the house have access to the safe and you may not adequately safeguard the combination to the safe. Home safes are heavy but they can be moved by one or two people. If something happens to your house like a flood or earthquake, your safe may be subject to the same calamity.


Attorney’s Safe. Some attorneys offer to hold the originals of a client’s estate planning documents in their office safe. Some charge a fee for this service; some do not. Some attorneys do not offer this service because they may then responsible for the safekeeping of these documents.

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