Estate Planning Blog

Don’t Hide Your Estate Plan

Estate Planning is the process of making a plan in advance and naming whom you want to receive the things you own after you pass away. Estate Planning is not just for “retired” people. Although people tend to think about it more as they get older. Unfortunately, we can’t successfully predict how long we will live, and illness and accidents happen to people of all ages. When creating an Estate Plan there’s many things to consider, one of them is should I make my estate plan private or public?

Five Reasons To Make Your Estate Planning Public

If your documents aren’t found, the state takes over

Life is very unpredictable. We should always plan for the worst, and hope for the best. One of the worst things that can occur after death is your hard earned assets not being properly distributed. This can be due to the fact that you were the only person to have the only original document of your estate plan.

To avoid having your documents lost after your death, you can share copies with the right people, including your attorney and your Executor or Trustee. You should also let your Executor or Trustee know where your original documents are kept. If you use a safe deposit box, your Executor or Trustee should have their name on the box, and access to a key.

For our trust clients, we always prepare a summary of your trust called an “Abstract”. Some trusts will come with a similar document called a “Certification”. We recommend providing copies of the trust summary, together with your attorney’s business card or contact information, to your successor trustees.

In California, if nobody can find your original Will, the presumption will be that you either did not leave a will or you intended to destroy it. According to the balance Your assets will pass to your closest kin in an order set by state law rather than by the terms you set out in your estate plan if your documents aren’t found.

Keeping it “In a Safe Place” might require a court order to later retrieve your document

An Estate document is very important, but sometime keeping it too safe is counterintuitive. Many people think that their safe deposit box is the best place to store their original estate planning documents, but this isn’t always the case. According to the balance, In many states, your family will need a court order to open up the box and locate your documents if it’s in your sole name without a joint owner. Your loved ones won’t have immediate access to your estate plan if you become disabled or after you die, at least not without that court order. If you still believe that a safe box is the best way to keep your document safe. Consider adding the names of your executors or successor trustees to your safe deposit box, and make sure they have access to a key!

Natural Disasters can create a headache – if you’re not prepared

Keeping your original estate plan in your home is perfectly okay. Keeping the ONLY original estate plan document in your home on the other hand is very risky. Natural disaster cannot be avoided, and when they do arrive – grabbing your estate documents is not your first priority. Allowing your Attorney to retain signed copies of all paperwork relating to your estate is crucial. So in case your house undergoes a natural disaster,  you know that your attorney will be able to recreate everything. Apart from your Attorney, your Executor or Trustee can also retain signed copies. Your executor will be able to proceed with the papers at their fingertips without any issues.

Our office actually prepares signed duplicate originals for our clients “just in case”. This was a great relief for our clients affected by the recent Napa/Sonoma area fires.

California maintains an Advance Directive Registry.

California maintains an Advance Directive Registry. By filing your advance directive with the registry, your health care provider and loved ones may be able to find a copy of your directive in the event you are unable to provide one. You can read more about the registry, including instructions on how to file your advance directive, at

You may also want to save a copy of your form in an online personal health records application, program, or service that allows you to share your medical documents with your physicians, family, and others who you want to take an active role in your advance care planning.

Are You Asking Yourself “Is My Estate Plan Ready & Is It Perfectly Distributed?”

An Estate document has a vast amount of personal information. You should be able to count on the people that retain your documents. At The Law Offices of Joel A. Harris, we can help you build your estate plan, answer any questions, help you distribute your documents to right people, and properly protect your signed estate plan. Throughout the process, we explain everything & answer every question you may have. Since 1993, The Law Offices of Joel A. Harris has worked tirelessly to assure individuals receive the most beneficial estate planning. Feel free to call us at (925)757-4605!


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