If you were to become incapacitated or pass away today, would your family be able to find your estate planning documents? Or would they have to search your home high and low?
Estate planning documents are only useful to you if they can be found by your family. If they can’t, it’s almost as if you never created them at all.
In an earlier blog post, we covered how to organize your estate planning documents. For our clients, we place all of their documents in a red notebook labeled “Estate Planning documents.” All of the important documents are kept there and organized using an index and color-coded tabs. The label on the outside lets family members know immediately what’s inside. We recommend to our clients that they keep this notebook in an easily visible place in their homes, such as a bookshelf.
Having these documents on paper is always a good idea. But if you are more electronically inclined, you might also want to have the documents accessible online. This would allow your family to access your documents from anywhere, which could be important if, for example, you were in an accident and your family needed to access your living will from the hospital.
However, it’s important that, if you do keep your documents on your phone or computer, the service is secure.
There are a number of online services that allow you to store your documents, including DocuBank and MyDirectives, according to a recent article by the New York Times.
And now, there is an even an app for your phone.
The Times reports that the American Bar Association (ABA) recently released a smartphone app called My Health Care Wishes (which comes in both a free and unlimited paid version) that allows you to store estate planning directives.
The ABA president, Jim Silkenat, said about the app, “It really is as convenient as we can possibly make it. And it’s free.”
If you haven’t told your family how to access your estate planning documents, do it as soon as possible. It’s essential that they know how to find them.