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Estate Planning Documents: Where Do I Keep Them?

Storing Your Estate Planning Documents

One question estate planning attorneys are frequently asked is "Where should I keep my original documents?" Generally, the answer to that question is somewhere in your home that is waterproof, fireproof, and secure, yet easily accessible to your loved ones when they need access to the documents. However, now it is possible to store at least one of your documents online. While online storage is not possible for wills, as the original is needed for probate, nor for Powers of Attorney, there are now websites where you can store your health care directive and living will.

These websites, such as U.S. Living Will Registry, allow you to electronically store your advance directive and living will and makes them available to hospitals and other health care providers across the county. When you register for U.S. Living Will Registry you scan in and upload your existing health care directive into the system. You are then given a label to place on your driver's license and your insurance card and a card to keep in your wallet, which lists your registration number. Health care providers can contact the computer on the telephone or via a secure Internet web site, and request a copy of your advance directive. The computer sends a copy to the provider, and it is kept as part of your confidential medical record. If you don't have your card, the health care provider can still access your document by searching using your name and birth date or by using your social security number. 

For those individuals who do not feel comfortable uploading their health care directive onto the site, there is an option to upload a Document Locator Form. This form states that the registrant has an up to date advance directive, and tells the provider where the document can be found. You can list the names and telephone numbers of people who you have given your document to, and you can also list specific locations where you have placed your document. The completed form is scanned into the database instead of the actual document, so when a health care provider accesses your document, they will receive the locator form. They will know that you have an advance directive and can get it when needed.

Although it is not necessary to register your health care directive onto one of these sites, U.S. Living Will Registry estimates that as many as 50% of health care directives will not be accessible when needed. Registration with one of these sites could provide peace of mind knowing your documents will be accessible when you need them.

While health care directives have now seemingly made it into the digital age, it will likely be a very long time, if ever, before a similar technology is available for wills.  If you need your estate planning documents drafted or reviewed, contact McMorrow Law, LLC at 724-940-0100 for a free consultation.

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