You sign your documents that describe what you want to happen if you die
(your trust and/or your will). You sign your documents that describe what
you want to happen if you are alive but incapacitated and unable to speak
for yourself (your durable power of attorney, your living will and your
designation of healthcare surrogate). Then you take these documents and
put them in your safe deposit box at the bank for safe keeping.
Putting documents as important as these in your safe deposit box may seem
like a logical thing to do but really, a safe deposit box isn’t
always the best place to keep these documents. It isn’t that they
aren’t safe there; it is that they are not necessarily accessible
there when they are needed the most. If you become incapacitated or die,
who has access to your safe deposit box? If it is no one but you, there
may be a delay in getting to these documents.
Even if your spouse or adult child has access to the safe deposit box with
you, in an emergency, do you want them to have to stop by the bank and
retrieve your document designating them as your healthcare surrogate on
the way to the hospital to speak for you?
It is this fact that estate planning documents are mostly needed in situations
where we no longer have control (because we have passed away or become
incapacitated) that can make our normal logical places for safekeeping
them not so logical. Do your family a favor and instead of thinking like
the owner of the documents, think like the family member who needs access
to them when choosing the safe spot for storing your estate planning documents.