Who should receive copies of my estate planning documents?
Who should receive copies of my estate planning documents? Once you have completed your estate plan, you should take the time to sit down and read through the documents carefully. Make sure all your beneficiaries are properly listed, that all information is accurate and that you fully understand all the language in all the documents. If everything appears in good order, you will then need to decide who will need copies of the estate planning documents. Since your will does not go into effect until after your death, you may or may not want to provide your personal representative (executor) with a copy of your will. You may, however, want to ensure your personal representative knows where your will is located so that it can be easily retrieved when the time comes.
Your original health care power of attorney (advance directive) should be given to your family physician so he or she can make a copy to add to your medical records. The same should be done for your durable power of attorney—take the original to your bank to have them make a copy for your banking records. (Make sure you keep the originals). Your attorney-in-fact, as well as your health care agent, should have a copy of your durable power of attorney and your healthcare advance directive. Make sure these individuals are aware of your wishes and what you would like them to do in the event of your incapacitation or other “triggering” event.
Next, consider who should receive copies of my estate planning documents by considering any person who would conceivably be affected by your estate planning documents. This could include family members or friends who are beneficiaries or who are otherwise involved in your estate plan. Whether you will distribute copies of your estate plan to these people will depend on how you feel about sharing those details prior to your death. If you have specific or unusual bequests, will those bequests cause problems among family members if they know of those bequests prior to your death? If your goal is to leave behind peace and harmony among your family members, you might choose not to disclose the details of your will and trust just yet.
Remember that items of personal property are the most likely to cause emotional issues among family members. The personal property could have little monetary value, but significant sentimental value. Because of this, you might want to discuss these items with family members to determine whether one person has a particular interest in an item.
Some assets, like retirement accounts, bank accounts, and life insurance policies, have beneficiary forms that take precedence over wills. The funds in those types of accounts are distributed to whomever you have designated as a beneficiary, no matter what changes you make to your will. This information should probably be shared with your beneficiaries, so there are no major surprises when you die.
Keep your original estate plan with your other important documents—such as birth certificates, marriage certificates, and medical histories—in a secure, fireproof cabinet or lockbox. If you choose to keep these items in a safety deposit box, make sure your loved ones are aware of the existence of the safety deposit box and are able to access it upon your death.
Of course, your Texas estate planning attorney will have copies of your estate plan; if the originals are somehow destroyed, your estate planning attorney can easily recreate those documents from copies and have everything re-signed. It is virtually never a good idea to hide your will or other estate planning documents. If you do so, then when you die, or when you become incapacitated, those documents may not be able to be located, and the state of Texas might step in and take over.