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Foley & Pearson News

Tuesday, April 5, 2016

Where is your Red Book Stored?

Organization is often the key to a quality estate plan.  Knowing where your documents are stored and telling successor trustees and executors where you keep the documents is part of being properly organized. 

We are constantly amazed at how often estate planning documents, including wills, trusts, power of attorneys, and health care directives, become lost or misplaced.  These documents are the keys to your financial and medical kingdom.  They need to be maintained and updated from time to time and that means you need to be able to find them when it is time to make changes or amendments.

Moreover, your successor trustees and executors need to be able to find these documents and have easy access to them in the event of your death or disability.  But in order for the “hand off” of authority to be smooth, your successor trustees and executors need to know where the documents are stored and have access to them if you pass away or become disabled.

As part of the Foley, Foley & Pearson planning process, all estate planning documents are properly organized and tabbed in a three-ring binder that we commonly refer to as “the Red Book.”  We suggest that clients do not remove documents from the Red Book binder or put them in different locations.  If you need to use a document, make a copy, and leave the original in the binder.

In addition, we suggest that you store the documents in your home where they are easily accessible to you during your lifetime and to your family in the event of your death or disability.  We do not normally recommend hiding the Red Book, locking the Red Book in a safe, or putting the Red Book in a safety deposit box.  In most instances, your successors will be unable to find or get access to documents that are under lock and key.

It is extremely unlikely that your documents will be stolen or destroyed in a fire.  This has never happened to a client of Foley, Foley & Pearson in almost 30 years of law practice.  On the other hand, we have been involved in many cases where documents were lost, misplaced or hidden.

We seldom recommend that you give copies of legal documents to family members or successor trustees or executors because most of our clients are going to amend their documents multiple times before they actually pass away.  If we send copies to multiple family members over a lifetime of amendments, there is a substantial risk of confusion about which documents are the final documents when you pass away.

Foley, Foley & Pearson maintains copies of the estate planning documents of all clients.  This provides a good back-up in the unlikelihood that they are destroyed or cannot be found.  Original documents are best for avoiding disagreements among beneficiaries, but copies can be acceptable.

Foley, Foley & Pearson can also make copies of your legal documents available to you and your family with on-line access through our secure web portal called Legal Vault.   Legal Vault gives our clients 24/7 access to documents.  This is particularly attractive to clients who regularly travel or live in more than one state.  Carrying the Red Book between homes or while on vacation is not an attractive option. 

Call our office if you have questions about document storage or if you want to learn more about Legal Vault

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