Thursday, July 14, 2016

Don't "Lose" Your Living Will - Storage Places to Avoid

Question: I just came back from my attorney with my estate planning documents.  One of my documents is a "living will," but I have no idea where to put it.  How about putting it where it will be safe, like in my bank's safe deposit box?

Answer: Remember that a living will is only useful if it is found!  You should store your living will (also called an "advance healthcare directive") where it will be found when it is truly needed.

If your family has no idea where your living will is, the document is useless.  If it is never found, it is a legal document without any effect.  It will never serve any function.  The purpose of having a living will in the first place is to grant authority to your agent: Through that document your agent is given the legal authority to make essential healthcare decisions on your behalf.  But if your agent cannot find the document, he or she may never be able to make the decisions that you intend.

Where should you never store your living will?  Here are some places to avoid, the first being exactly where you are thinking of putting it:

Your safe deposit box.  Sorry, but think again!  If your agent does not have access to your bank safe deposit box, obviously he or she may never be able to get the living will in time so that it can be used.

Your home safe.  This is like placing your healthcare directives in the bank's vault.  If only you have the combination to the safe, then your agent will probably never find it.

Giving it to someone unknown to your agent.  This is another way to "lose" your directives -- giving the living will to someone other than your agent, without your agent's knowledge.  Again: If your agent has no idea where the living will is, then how can he or she get it?

Giving the original to someone at odds with your agent.  Some of you may have intra-family turmoil.  Obviously, never give your living will with someone who often fights with or is at odds with your designated agent.  Remember: The purpose of the living will is to ensure that your wishes are carried out.  PERIOD.  Your directives are not to be used in a way to be "fair" to another family member, or for any purpose other than ensuring that your wishes are followed.

Putting it where nobody would ever look.  This is a general category.  Never place your living will in a secret place, or in the middle of a "mess."  It should be kept in a place known to your agent, or otherwise where important papers are kept.

So many people go to the expense of preparing a living will, but give little thought as to where it should be kept.  Even more important, they place their living wills in entirely inappropriate places.  Make sure that your agent knows where you have stored your living will.

Disclaimer: The information in this article is not legal advice, and the use of it does not create an attorney-client relationship. Any liability that might arise from your use or reliance on this article or any links from this article is expressly disclaimed. This article is not to be acted upon as if it were legal advice, and is subject to change without notice, or may include obsolete or dated information, or information not relevant to your jurisdiction. If you require legal services, you should consult with an attorney.

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