Storing your estate documents, such as a Power of Attorney, in a secure place is extremely important. Some of us assume that one of the safest places to store our documents, in particular our Power of Attorney, is at a bank in a safety deposit box.
However, because a Power of Attorney is a document people use to allow a trusted friend to make decisions when they are unable to, storing your document (or at least your only copy) with a bank is often not recommended.
In this post, discover a couple of reasons why you shouldn’t store your Power of Attorney in a safety deposit box and what you should do instead.
What is a POA?
A Power of Attorney, sometimes called a POA, lets you provide someone else (like a friend or family member) with the authority to make important decisions (such as financial or business decisions) for you when you’re unable to. If you’re creating a Power of Attorney, then you’re the principal and whoever you appoint to make your decisions is your attorney-in-fact, sometimes called an agent.
A person can have an Ordinary Power of Attorney, meaning the principal is still capable of making their own decisions but can’t for reasons such as long-term travel, or an Enduring Power of Attorney, meaning the principal is unable to make their own decisions for reasons like they’ve become incapacitated due to an illness or disability.
To use a POA, an attorney-in-fact often needs to have the original document that was created and signed by the principal, which is why where it is stored is so important and why you should avoid storing it in a safety deposit box.
Be Sure You Can Access Your POA When You Need It
Keeping your original Power of Attorney in a safety deposit box might mean it’s not able to be accessed when it’s needed most.
Imagine a friend creates an Enduring Power of Attorney and appoints you as the attorney-in-fact. Your friend then places their original POA in their safety deposit box and doesn’t create any certified copies to place anywhere else. Often, deposit boxes can only be opened during banking hours, which means you’ll be unable to access it after hours, on weekends, or on holidays.
If something were to happen, like a car accident that results in your friend being incapacitated, and the Enduring Power of Attorney is in a deposit box, you may not be able to obtain the Power of Attorney to make important, possibly time-sensitive decisions, such as authorizing payment for medical bills or providing funds to help family members fly to see their loved one.
Be Sure You Don’t Need a POA to Access One
Similarly, a Power of Attorney is often required by banks to allow someone like an attorney-in-fact to open a person’s safety deposit box. So, without one, you may be unable to access the document and start your duties as an attorney-in-fact.
In this situation, it is easy to see how big of a problem it would be if the very document you need to enter the deposit box is inside it.
Where Should You Store Your POA?
Although a deposit box is a great place to store important documents, it is not a good place to store your only POA. That said, it can still be used to store a copy of your document as long as another copy is available elsewhere in case the bank or deposit box is inaccessible when you need access. You can also store your POA with someone you trust, like your lawyer, accountant, or attorney-in-fact or even in a safe in your home.
Wherever you decide to store your document, ensure that your attorney-in-fact will be able to access the document when it’s needed.
Storing Your Power of Attorney
A person should put a lot of thought about where they store important estate documents such as a Power of Attorney. You might think a safety deposit box at a bank is a great place to store your POA, but it might not be accessible by your attorney-in-fact when it is needed the most.
Therefore, it’s better to store multiple copies of your document in a few places or store it with a trusted person or in a safe location in your home.