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BinderAfter a long time of ignoring it and fretting about it, you have finished creating your estate plan. You have taken needed steps to protect yourself and your family, and given yourself some peace of mind.

Soon after you signed your documents, your estate planning attorney will give you a binder with all your estate planning and funding documents.  Your binder should become a central place of information for your plan and your assets.  Keeping all these things together will make it easier for your family to administer your plan.  Creating your plan and having your binder is not the end of your estate planning process.  Rather, reviewing your estate plan and your binder is essential to make sure that your plan reflects your wishes as life changes.

Where to Keep Your Estate Planning Binder

You should keep your estate planning binder in a safe place in your home, preferably with or near your other financial information.  A fireproof safe is probably the best location.  You can make photocopies or scans of your plan if you ever need to.  You should not use your originals to conduct business if you can avoid it.  You do not want to lose or damage your original estate plan, so keep it someplace safe.

Who Should Have Access to the Binder

You should not give everyone access to the binder.  Indeed, you may not want to give anyone access.  While you are alive and well, others do not need to know all the details about your estate plan.  Rather, you may want to communicate to your agents and successor trustees where to find your binder if you are incapacitated or after you pass away.  You want those people to have access to your documents so they can fulfill your wishes when you are not able to express them.  If you put your binder in a locked container, make sure that those people you trust know where to find the key.  If you put your binder in a safety deposit box, talk with your bank to understand everything that has to happen for someone else to access it and make plan accordingly.

How Often to Review Or Update Your Binder

Life changes often, as does your finances.  These force your priorities to change and what you want to happen in your estate plan.

For example, if your income dramatically changes, you have an additional child, or if your marriage status changes, that may necessitate a change in your estate plan.  Your life situation, or even your vision may change.

These changes and others can have a fundamental and dramatic impact on your estate plan.  Without reviewing your plan and making needed changes, your new wishes may not be fulfilled.

Generally, you should review your estate plan according to the following schedule:

  • An annual summary review
  • A detailed review every 3-5 years to make sure that your plan reflects your current situation and vision
  • Whenever you have a dramatic change in income or assets
  • After a life event, such as marriage, birth, or death among your loved ones
  • If you are thinking about a change of your estate plan.

If you do a good job keeping your binder safe and inline with your goals, you will greatly help your loved ones understand and implement your wishes.  If you need help, contact The Rains Law Firm or schedule a complimentary meeting to discuss your options.