Jennifer C. Rydberg, Attorney at Law
Schedule A Consultation By Calling 425-235-5535

Inheritance issues: secrets can be costly at death

The prudent step of drafting a will or power of attorney aids a person's family in Washington. However, this planning is worthless if the location of these documents is kept secret from family members.

In fact, a BMO Wealth Management poll in 2016 revealed that only one-third of people in this country informed their heirs about where these important documents are kept. Ten percent provided copies of these original papers to their heirs.

Potentially, state intestacy laws could determine which person receives the assets if the will is missing. If an older or superseded version of the will is located instead of a current copy, the outdated version could govern the distribution of property, despite the testator's wishes or changing family situation.

The originals should be kept in a safe location because a court may not accept copies or digital files as the replacement of a lost original if there is a will contest. Each original document should be kept in its own sealed and marked envelope so that all pages are kept intact and do not get mixed in with other documents.

A fireproof box kept at home is the best place to store these papers because this presents the best accessibility if there is an emergency, such as a health care proxy. Keeping them in a safe deposit box is not recommended because banks may not be open or persons who need these documents during emergencies may not receive access.

Individuals who do not want to provide copies of these documents should at least notify other family members, besides their spouse, where the papers are kept. This helps ensure that the documents are quickly located if both spouses are injured in the same accident or die within a short time of each other. The location of the documents, a combination or key to the lockbox or safe, and contact information about the attorney also needs to be disclosed.

When a will or power of attorney is changed or updated, old copies should be destroyed to avoid confusion over which document is the current and valid will. Current copies should also be provided to family members.

Attorneys, along with financial advisors, should also have current copies of these documents. A lawyer can provide advice and recommend updates when a client's situation changes.

Source: CNBC, "Take this secret to the grave, and it'll cost you," Kelli B. Grant, April 6, 2017

No Comments

Leave a comment
Comment Information

Main Office
8407 S. 259th Street Suite 203
Kent, WA 98030

Contact Us
Phone: 425-235-5535
Fax: 253-852-0400