WHERE SHOULD I STORE MY ESTATE DOCUMENTS AND WHAT SHOULD GO INTO A SAFE DEPOSIT BOX?

Notepad

Friends of JGB- Another crazy year is winding to a close. With holiday wishes for an easier 2022, we present two topics for this December newsletter: a quick reminder about our TrustGuard program and a section on safeguarding your important papers and valuables.

TrustGuard™ 2022

TrustGuard™ enrollment for 2022 is now open. TrustGuard™ is our proprietary JGB, process-driven program, designed for our clients who are serious about protecting their investment in their Trust-based Estate Plan with an annual review.

A subscription to TrustGuard™ includes an annual review of your estate plan and trust funding assistance for the enrollment year, along with any required changes to your plan, as well as access to our exclusive TrustGuard™ quarterly newsletter and event. Enrollment invitations were sent out for all our enrolled TrustGuard™ clients, as well as our clients who executed their documents in 2021.

Enrollment for the 2021 TrustGuard™ period ends on February 28, 2022. JGB clients who do not reenroll during the enrollment period will not have another opportunity to become members of TrustGuard™.

Participation in TrustGuard™ is entirely voluntary. The TrustGuard™ enrollment subscription is billed at an annual flat rate. Clients who pay their enrollment in full prior to February 1, 2022 will receive a $100 discount off of the price of full enrollment. If you are interested in becoming a TrustGuard™ client, please contact our office for a TrustGuard™ Enrollment Form.

Safeguarding Important Papers and Valuables

Clients regularly ask us where to keep their estate documents. The answer is, “ in a safe place in your home.” The common follow-up question is,“ why not keep them in a safe-deposit box.” This article will answer that question and then will discuss what things are best protected in a safe-deposit box and which are best stored elsewhere. 

Where To Keep Your Estate Plan Papers

You should keep your Will/Trust in your home, in a safe place that is intuitive for your Executor or Trustee. Recently I was Executor for a client and had to enter his home to find the will. I had been told it was in the top drawer of the file cabinet in the office at the top of the stairs- and I was very pleased to find the blue JGB Binder exactly where it was supposed to be. You want your successor to have an easy time finding the documents, so don’t hide them or keep them in a locked safe – unless your successor knows how to get into that safe. Here at JGB we have burned money on many locksmiths to get into locked safes (which turned out to be empty) in hope they contain a will or valuables. Your estate papers are far more likely to be lost than destroyed, and more likely to be destroyed by a broken pipe than a fire. Keep your binder on a shelf or cabinet above the ground and let your successors know where the binders are. Remember that JGB keeps a duplicate copy of your Will/Trust papers in case yours are lost or destroyed.

Why not keep the Estate Binder in a Safe Deposit Box?

Safe Deposit Boxes are inconvenient for Executors and Trustees. Unless you made arrangements in life, your representatives have a hard time getting access from the bank. Worse, one often moves in the late stages of life and old banks and their safe-deposit boxes are forgotten or lost. I had one case in Great Falls in which the Trustee believed her sister had a coin collection in a safe deposit box- she called every bank in town- but could not locate the box for lack of detail and bank privacy policies. If the box and coin collection still existed, it was never found.

What a Safe Deposit Box Is

A Safe Deposit Box is a small vault you can rent from a local bank branch. They are inexpensive and very safe. They are inside a larger vault inside a bank, secured by the existing security within that branch and built to withstand natural disasters.

Good things to put in a safe deposit box include items that are difficult to replace, easy to steal, and not needed in an emergency. These include jewelry, paper bonds and stock certificates, computer back-up drives, business operating agreements, car titles, and numismatics (collectible coins).

Safe deposit boxes are bad for large items (simply won’t fit in the box), easily replaced items (the deed to your house is recorded at the county courthouse and you can get a copy for a dollar or two), and things you may need in an emergency, like a passport or your Estate Binder. Remember that you cannot retrieve items from a Safe Deposit box on a day the bank is closed.

What can go wrong with Safe Deposit Boxes?

The most common failure of safe deposit boxes is that clients simply forget to use them. As a fiduciary, I have gone to great lengths many times to open a safe deposit box, only to find it empty. Worse, if the rent goes unpaid on a safe deposit box (five years in Virginia), the box and its contents are considered abandoned and are emptied out and the contents are auctioned by the state as unclaimed property. It is possible a person could lose their memory, live many years afterwards, and have their estate binder lost and valuables sold- all unbeknownst to their successor and loved ones.

Conclusion

Safe Deposit Boxes can be useful tools, and like all tools they are more useful for some jobs than others. If you have a safe deposit box and use it, be sure to make sure:

  • the rent is auto-paid from an account that can sustain the cost indefinitely
  • You inventory what you put in the box and keep that with your Estate Binder
  • You have granted access to your Executor or Trustee, and
  • You have not granted access to anyone untrustworthy.

Happy Holidays and Happy New Year from JGB! Cheers!

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