Recently, a colleague stuck his head in my office door and asked me if he had left a white envelope in my office. I looked around and didn't see it so I said nope. He continued down the hallway sticking his head in each of the open doors and asked the same question. Each response was the same as mine.

He made it down to the conference room and began banging around in there. Finally I heard him say "here it is, under the bananas." I'm not sure what I found more surprising; the fact that he found his missing envelope under a bunch of bananas or the fact that we have bananas in the office at all. My office sort of runs on potato chips and doughnuts.

What I want you to take away from my little story, all of which is true by the way, is that people loose stuff. Some of this stuff is important and some not so much. Whatever its importance, things sometimes and do go missing.

Because you can lose almost anything, you should be careful where we put the really important stuff. Included in this "really important stuff" is your estate planning documents.

Now I know none of you would lose your estate plan but sometimes people put these things someplace to be safe and then can't remember where that safe place is. If you place the estate plan in a safe place but can't find it, chances are it's safe and that's good. However, if you can't find the estate plan that's not good.

You're probably thinking "I would never do something like that" and you're probably right. However, over the last 20 years, I have spent a lot of time digging through old boxes in storage looking for a copy of a power of attorney or living will for people who would never do something like that. In most cases, I can provide copies, but sometimes I can't. For example, my clients only execute one copy of the Will and I always send it out the door with them. If the will gets lost, there isn't a lot I can do. 

What I tell my clients to place the estate plan in a safe but accessible place. Don't hide it behind a picture or bury it in the back yard. Remember that your family will need to find this one day so make sure that they at least know where to look and for goodness sakes, don't rely on the attorney to have a copy.  

Wherever you store the plan, make sure it isn't under the bananas. Trust me, that's the last place anyone would look.

Christopher W. Yugo is an attorney in Crown Point. Chris’ Estate Planning Article appears online every Sunday at www.nwi.com. Address questions to Chris in care of The Times, 601 W. 45th Ave., Munster, IN 46321 or to Chrisyugolaw@gmail.com. Chris’ information is meant to be general in nature. Specific legal, tax, or insurance questions should be referred to your attorney, accountant, or estate-planning specialist.

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