12 May Keeping Documents Safe
Like most people, you probably have anxiety about your health during this coronavirus epidemic. Or perhaps your biggest concern is for your family. At Phelps LaClair, we share that concern for all of our clients in the Phoenix Valley. As estate planning lawyers, we want to make sure that our clients’ families are covered in case of incapacitation or death. One of the ways we can do that is to encourage our clients to keep their estate planning documents in order and in a safe place.
Having your documents in order is important. Clearly labeling each document will help someone else find it quickly when it is needed. If you have both a revocable trust and an irrevocable trust, you don’t want them to be confused. The titles to the assets in your trusts should be included as part of your records.
Bank accounts, investment and retirement accounts, insurance policies, LLCs, etc., are all included as part of your estate. Each of these should have account numbers recorded and the dates they became active and/or inactive. If you access them online, your spouse or family should know how to retrieve them.
Internet accounts, usernames and passwords should be included and up to date. Other digital assets such as social media, email, items in cloud storage and virtual currencies are all password protected. These digital assets will need to be opened by someone if you are unable, so be sure that all passwords are listed in your records along with instructions on accessing them.
All original estate-related documents should be given to your lawyer for safe keeping. Allowing your estate planning attorney to keep them for you is a safer solution than keeping them in a safe deposit box. They will be all together in the hands of the person who knows what to do with them.
Copies of some documents will be needed by other people. Your attending physician will need a copy of your living will. So will your healthcare proxy. Financial agents and advisors will need relevant financial documents. The person(s) you have named as your successor agent or trustee will need to have access to most of your information. Family members should have copies if you want them to be aware of your plans. These copies will need to have a stamp indicating where the originals are located in case the original is needed.
You will need to have good quality scanned copies of the original documents. It is possible that other copies will need to be scanned from them, so using the highest quality is best. You should also save the scanned images as a digital record, just in case. It is a good idea to do this for every important document. Records such as marriage and birth certificates, passports, financial and legal documents, divorce and child custody papers should all have a digital file included.
There are estate planning documents that will need to be notarized—we can help you determine which ones. You should have them notarized as soon as possible. On April 8, the Governor of Arizona issued Executive Order 2020-26 making immediately effective Arizona’s laws and guidance enabling remote online notarization in the state. This allows Arizonans to get documents notarized remotely, while ensuring secure and effective verification processes.
Staying at home
Many people are able to work remotely during this lockdown period. At Phelps LaClair, we encourage you to take this time to organize your important documents, copy and distribute them to the appropriate people—while following Arizona’s COVID-19 “stay home, stay healthy, stay connected” guidelines for your safety and others’. If you are in Chandler, Mesa, Phoenix or Scottsdale, give us a call for any and all of your estate planning needs. Your first consultation with us is free. As a 2nd generation estate planning firm, we can help you plan for a long and healthy future with peace of mind.