Losing your original estate plan documents certainly is an issue, but not an unsolvable dilemma. The first thing you should do is contact your estate planning attorney and see if they saved electronic copies of any or all your documents. (At Hampton Law, we scan all our clients’ documents on the day of signing, so that we can easily email them to you upon request.) However, not all law firms do this.
Other than re-signing your documents, Florida law provides several options for addressing the issue of missing or damaged original estate plan documents.
According to Florida Probate law an original Last Will and Testament needs to be submitted to the court upon death. Therefore, the Last Will and Testament is the one document Hampton Law recommends re-executing as soon as possible.
An electronic copy of a Trust document should be sufficient for any purpose. If you have electronic copies, you should be okay to use these. Otherwise, you’re welcome to have an attorney restate the Trust in its entirety so that you have a hard copy. Because you’re simply restating the Trust, you can also continue to use the original Trust date.
The Durable Power of Attorney is the most important document you have, and Florida law provides that an electronic copy has the same effect as a physical copy. A Designation of Healthcare Surrogate (sometimes called a Healthcare Proxy) and a Living Will should also be fine in electronic copy form.
If you choose to use a copy of the Durable Power of Attorney or Health Care Surrogate, I suggest a notary public from the law firm that drafted your estate plan documents sign a Certification as Notary Public that the document is a true and exact copy of the original.
Before utilizing a copy of your estate plan documents, always consult with your attorney to make sure that these will be valid and accepted according to Florida Law when needed.