After you’ve signed your documents, there are some follow-up steps that we highly recommend, to ensure that your plans will be fully and smoothly implemented.
1. Storage of your documents. Our usual practice is to retain the original signed documents in our office for safekeeping, and to deliver copies to you. We are happy to provide as many hardcopies, or pdfs, as you wish. Our office information is written in all the documents so that people know how to contact us to obtain the originals. If you prefer to have the originals, that’s fine, too; just ask.
The best place to store your documents is at home, wherever you keep other important papers. A safe-deposit box at a bank can be problematic, since it can’t be readily accessed after your death, which is when your will would be needed.
2. Health care proxies. You may need your health care proxy in an emergency situation, so you want to make sure it’s readily accessible to others. We strongly recommend that you submit a pdf of your health care proxy to Docubank, where it will be stored securely and will be available in an emergency. For a small annual fee (discounted when you mention that our firm referred you), they will send you an emergency-contact wallet card, which will contain information on how hospital personnel and others can retrieve a copy of your document. Other documents, such as a power of attorney, can be stored with them as well.
3. Your agents and doctors. It’s also a good idea to provide copies of your health care proxy to your primary doctor and relevant specialists. Copies of your health care proxy and your power of attorney can also go the agents you name in the documents, so that they will know their roles and will be ready to act if necessary. Your will and other documents are best kept private.
4. Assets and online accounts. The process of settling an estate after a death is mostly an exercise of figuring out what assets the person had, gathering them, and distributing them to the appropriate parties. You can get your estate into order by keeping records of all your financial accounts, credit cards, business agreements, home ownership documents, etc. in orderly files. Also, as our personal business is transacted increasingly online, our information leaves less of a paper trail and is less accessible to others. For this reason, we strongly recommend that you use One Password to gather your account passwords into a single secure place, and write your master password in a sealed envelope stored with your estate documents.
5. Send things to us at any time. We are here to help you implement your plans, not just to write the documents. Whenever you open a new account or sell a home or change your beneficiaries or make advance funeral arrangements, please send us a copy of the relevant documents. We will keep your file updated, so that all your information is in good order whenever it’s needed.
6. Check back in with us now and then. We write our documents with flexible provisions to address a range of changes that may occur in your life. But there are many things we can’t anticipate, so please check in with us every couple of years. We always love to hear from our clients and will be happy to review your documents in light of your current circumstances. We regard our connection with you as an ongoing relationship and we look forward to serving your needs as they evolve over time.