July 31, 2012   Estate Planning

Save Your Family from a Treasure Hunt

By Daryl Binkley, Esq.
In this article, WealthCounsel member Daryl Binkley, discusses how lost wills can be a problem for many people.  Daryl provides some tips to implement when creating a trust to ensure that you or your loved ones do not encounter the issue of locating lost wills.  

Frequently, I receive calls from people who are trying to locate a will or trust of their parent or loved one who just died. They are not able to locate any trust documents or have any information about the attorney who created it.

After doing some research for a particular family, I found out that the attorney who created a trust had died before his client – then there as the job of finding where the deceased attorney’s files went.

There are numerous cases of “lost wills.” My personal favorite is digging around a person’s property after they passed away, looking for a will that was supposedly buried in a container. Maybe a myth or legend, but it set a graphic image.

Just this week, I have received a few phone calls about this issue. Families were trying to locate local attorneys who worked on trusts for loved ones by calling every attorney in the area. These random inquiries from other lawyers or loved ones make me think this is a problem for many people, or it might be down the road.

So what are some possible solutions for this problem? The following are tips to ensure that you or your loved ones do or do not fall into the abyss of lost documents.

Tips for individuals or couples creating a trust
  • Give basic information that you created a trust to at least one or some of your loved ones. If you feel comfortable, you might want to let them know of your wishes, desire and reasons why you made specific decisions about your assets.
  • If your beneficiaries are also trustees, provide them with information on where the trust is located – especially if it is locked in the safe-deposit box – and information on what they need to do if something is to happen to them. You might want to give a copy set to your trustee so they know all the details. Attorneys will have copies of client trusts in their files as well.
  • If you don’t want your kids or beneficiaries to know the exact location of your trust, or what the contents of the trust are, at least ensure they have contact information for the attorney that created the trust. Without this basic information, your kids or beneficiaries might be calling every attorney in the area trying to find this information. Or worse, they may need to pay another attorney to help them with this search.
Tips for beneficiaries and trustees of a trust
  • Have a heart-to-heart talk with your parents or loved ones about their wishes and desires on how things should e handled in the case they are not around. If your parents don’t have any legal documents set up about their health care decisions and assets, you may want to suggest that they seek and estate planning attorney. Ask your friends and/or professional advisers for references or recommendations.
  • If you know that your parents, loved ones or partners have created a trust and that you are a beneficiary, ask them for the attorney contact information.
  • If your loved ones are comfortable with it, they might even tell you where their estate planning documents are stored or even give you a copy of it.
About the Author
Attorney Daryl Binkley provides highly personalized estate planning counsel to couples, families and individuals. Daryl earned his Bachelor of Arts from the University of California at Berkeley and Juris Doctor, cum laude at Pepperdine School of Law in Malibu, California. You may have seen Daryl in the U.S. World and News Report, California Lawyer Magazine, The Desert Sun, the Public Record NBC KMIR6 - Channel 6, KPSP- Channel2, KPSE My 13 - Channel 13. You can find out more at www.binkleylaw.com or reach Daryl at daryl@binkleylaw.com.
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