After the Walker Fire grew to be the largest wildfire of 2019 and Hurricane Dorian inflicted catastrophic damage in the Bahamas, natural disasters have surfaced to the forefront of the minds of people across the country. A natural disaster can result in considerable damage to your home and possessions. Often overlooked is the potential for a natural disaster to destroy your critically important documents, which may include your estate plan. Our experienced Orange County estate planning lawyers offer some steps you can take to ensure your estate planning documents will survive whatever obstacles mother nature presents.
Ensure Your Documents Are in a Safe Location
Creating a thorough estate plan is often a large step in one’s life. It is easy to put off estate planning year after year. Once you have finally committed to making an estate plan and have created a plan that protects your property and heirs, you need to take steps to protect this plan. It is vital that you maintain records of all of your estate planning documents. Upon your death, in order to initiate probate, your loved ones will need to file an original copy of your Last Will and Testament to the California probate court. Should the original will be destroyed, the court may accept a copy, but it will require additional proof as to the will’s validity.
To avoid delays or complications, it is best that you protect your original estate planning documents, while also maintaining copies in a safe location. Start by gathering all of your estate planning originals in one location. Along with these documents, it is helpful for you to find and maintain other documents that might be needed in the event of your death, like the title to your home and vehicle.
With your documents all uncovered, you must now decide where to place your documents so that they will survive a natural disaster or any other property damaging event. One of the best options is to store the original estate planning documents with your attorney. Most estate planning attorneys have safe storage options for their clients, which might include an offsite storage location and a fireproof safe. Should you take this option, be sure that your loved ones know your attorney’s name and location. You should also keep copies of these documents in your home or in a bank safe.
If you decide to keep your estate planning documents in your own home, you will want to at least store them in a fire and flood safe proof. Should you evacuate your home, take these documents with you to avoid destruction. Talk to your estate planning lawyer about your concerns and he or she will assist you in taking steps to protect your critically important estate planning documents.