Who is Responsible for Storing Last Wills and Trusts?

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Storing last wills and other estate planning legal documents can be complicated.

Storing documents, in general, has changed significantly over the years.

In the past, all files were paper.

Next, there were computer hard drives and “floppy” disks.

Now, cloud-based storage exists.

According to a recent Daily Local News article titled “Could your future will be in the cloud?,” these changes bring new ethical estate planning choices.

Storing last wills should be managed by the client.
Clients prioritize security when storing last wills.

Should estate planning attorneys keep copies of the last wills and other estate planning legal documents of their clients?

The answer?

It depends.

Different estates have different laws about storing the legal documents of clients.

Some attorneys keep a copy of the documents for their clients.

Although it is often best for clients to work with the same estate planning attorney when they review and update a last will or trust, this is not always the case.

Consequently, the most recently consulted attorney often has no idea whether the last will or other legal documents have been replaced.

Other attorneys do not keep copies of their client files.

The document belongs to the client and should be stored in a fireproof and waterproof secured location.

Either way, the executor and trustee should be informed before the death of the client regarding how to access the estate planning documents.

Can the finalized estate planning documents simply be stored on the cloud?

Perhaps.

Because this is a relatively new question, storing last wills and other estate planning documents has only recently begun to be addressed by different states.

For example, the Uniform Electronic Wills Act and State Electronic Will statutes provide some basic guidelines.

What are some stipulations in these statutes?

The electronic will must be “retrievable in a perceivable form.”

In short, the document must be readable.

Another laws involves the execution of the legal documents, to include witnesses and notarization.

These individuals must be in the physical or electronic presence of the person executing the legal document.

If you choose a cloud-based storage, it is best to select one specifically for storing and securing official or legal documents.

Laws do vary by state so you should ask your experienced estate planning attorney what rules apply when it comes to storing your estate planning legal documents.

Reference: Daily Local News (Feb. 5, 2020) “Could your future will be in the cloud?”

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