Where Should I Keep My Will?

If you choose to use a will in your estate plan, your estate isn’t wrapped up when your lawyer drafts and you sign the document. You must also figure out where you wish to store it. Ideally, you’ll want to keep a will somewhere secure. However, you should not choose a place your executor can’t easily access. In the following sections, we’ll discuss where people in Cedar Rapids may decide to keep their will and the pros and cons of each option.

Keeping Your Will in a Safe Place at Home

People often choose to store their will at home. You don’t have to pull out all the security stops to keep your will safe, but you also shouldn’t tuck it away in a typical file cabinet.

If you’re thinking about storing your will at your residence, consider these pros and cons:

  • Convenient for changes – We encourage you to regularly update your will. If you store your will at home and decide to replace it, it’s easy to void the previous one.
  • Convenient for your descendants – Your loved ones will have an easier time locating your will if you keep it at home. To prevent frustration, ensure that your executor knows the key locations, combinations, and other information they’ll need for access.
  • Prone to accidents – Ensure that you keep your will in a protected place, such as inside a weather and fire-resistant safe. If you store it in an ordinary file or binder, you may mistake it for another document and accidentally destroy it.
  • Tied to your house’s safety – Simply because your will is where you live doesn’t make it immune from disasters and theft. If your property is burglarized or destroyed in a storm or fire, your will’s safety is in jeopardy.

Keeping Your Will at the Bank or a Storage Facility

Many banks in the Cedar Rapids area offer safe deposit boxes where clients can store sensitive documents. You might consider leasing one of these boxes for your storing your will. If you do, consider these points:

  • Safety from theft – While bank security is not airtight, safe deposit boxes will be behind thick walls and time locks to protect your will more securely than you could at home.
  • Safety from other parties – If you allow only your executor permission to access your box, they’ll be able to get to your will when the time comes, but no one else can.
  • Potential hiccups during access – If you don’t allow your executor access to the safe deposit box ahead of time, they will need to work with the court to open it, adding unnecessary time and fees.
  • Keep the key – If you lose your key, access to your will becomes more complicated. You may have to pay the bank an expensive fee to replace the key or force the box open.

Storing Your Will Online or in a Computer

While your original and official will must be printed on physical paper, you may choose to keep a copy on your computer or use a digital storage service like Google Drive.

If you keep a digital copy of your will, its security is not guaranteed. A data breach could enable a stranger with nefarious intentions to access it. Even if you keep a local copy on your primary computer, you may risk the possibility of fraud or family drama if someone finds it.

We should note that states are increasingly moving toward allowing their residents to make completely electronic wills. Iowa does not have this option, but if you created an electronic will somewhere where it is permitted, our courts might still recognize it according to state law.

Keeping Your Will with Your Lawyer

In days of yore, people often decided to keep their will with their estate planning lawyer. However, while it may be the most convenient option and is advisable in some cases, this practice has serious risks. If something happens to them or their firm, a responsible party must locate anything you left with them and return it to you. This process may take time you or your loved ones may not have, and there’s a risk that the firm’s representative may lose your will. Therefore, some lawyers may decline to store their clients’ documents once they’ve finished preparing them.

What’s the Best Place to Store Your Will?

Where you choose to keep your will is ultimately your call. However, we advise you to balance accessibility with security and keep your executor updated on your selected location.

Contact Us

The Cedar Rapids estate planning attorneys of Arenson Law Group, PC are happy to answer any questions you may have about the practicalities of where to keep your will once it’s complete. Contact our office at (319) 363-8199 for a consultation with our estate law team.

Does Facetime Count as Visitation?

As a non-custodial parent in Iowa, you have the right to visitation with your children following your divorce. However, you may live in another state or even another country than your children, or you may be a military servicemember on deployment, and you can’t always have in-person visits with your kids.

In this technological age, you have several options available for talking with your children and remaining involved in their lives even though you can’t be together physically. Virtual visitation is an acceptable method of child visitation in Iowa, and you can talk with your children through FaceTime and other similar applications.

Virtual Visitation in Iowa

The state of Iowa has established several forms of custody for divorcing parents that include legal and physical custody, as well as sole and joint custody.

One factor that can affect custody and visitation is a history of violence, abuse, or criminal activity perpetrated by one of the parents. Another factor that can affect a custody or visitation agreement is the proximity of one parent to their children. If one parent does not live close enough for regular physical visits, they can use other forms of communication, including virtual visitation.

Iowa allows the non-custodial parent “liberal visitation rights where appropriate” to encourage physical and emotional contact with their children after divorce. In many cases, the non-custodial parent may live close to their children, and they are able to visit with their children physically and share weekends and holidays with them.

However, some non-custodial parents live far away from their children, or they may be deployed overseas as members of the military. In these cases, the non-custodial parent can communicate and stay in touch with a child through the following methods:

  • FaceTime, Skype, Zoom, and other video conferencing applications
  • Email
  • Electronic messages and texts
  • Phone calls

Drafting Your Virtual Visitation Agreement

During your divorce, you and your spouse worked through a visitation schedule that became part of your divorce agreement. At that time, you might have included specific wording regarding virtual visitations. The visitation agreement can include stipulations regarding anything related to visiting with your children virtually, including:

  • Who will be financially responsible for buying your child a phone, tablet, computer, or other device to facilitate FaceTime, Zoom, or other virtual visitations
  • Acceptable times and days for virtual visits
  • Whether or not the custodial parent can be in the same room as the children when you talk to them through FaceTime

If you did not specifically include virtual visitation in your agreement, you could request a modification of your visitation agreement with the court. As with any visitation schedule, the court will consider whether using virtual visitation and electronic communications is in your child’s best interests.

It is important to note that virtual visitation should not fully replace physical visitation and should only be used as a supplement to provide an additional avenue for maintaining contact with your children.

Enforcing a Visitation Agreement

Once approved by the court, your visitation schedule will become a legal requirement that both parents must follow. Sometimes, life gets hectic, especially with children, and your ex may simply forget about your scheduled FaceTime with your children occasionally. If this seldom happens, it’s probably no reason for concern. However, you should seek assistance with enforcing your visitation agreement under any of the following circumstances:

  • The other parent refuses you access to your children through FaceTime.
  • The other parent regularly makes excuses for not allowing you to FaceTime your kids.
  • The other parent consistently causes the children to miss their scheduled virtual visitations.
  • The other parent completely ignores your requests to visit with your children through FaceTime.

Your first course of action is to try to talk with your ex about the situation and reach a resolution. Failing that, you can file a motion with the court to enforce your agreement. You will need the services and counsel of an experienced family law attorney who can help you draft your motion and advocate on your behalf before the court.

Contact Us for Help

Whether you need to modify your visitation agreement to include FaceTime and other virtual visitation, or if your ex-spouse is violating the terms of your approved visitation agreement, you will need to seek a resolution through the courts.

Since the process can be complex and challenging, you need an attorney on your side for help. The Cedar Rapids child custody lawyers of Arenson Law Group, PC have assisted hundreds of clients throughout Iowa with their virtual visitation agreements and other custodial matters. Contact us at (319) 363-8199 to request a confidential consultation.



What You Didn’t Know About a Trust

Planning for the future is important regardless of your age or wealth. One of the estate planning tools you can use to protect your assets and pass on property to your heirs and beneficiaries as you see fit is a trust.

Trusts can be useful tools, and they can offer asset protection and stipulations regarding inheritances that go beyond what a will can provide. However, trusts are usually complex to create, and you need an experienced estate planning attorney to help you with the process.

What Is a Trust?

A trust is a legal arrangement that protects any assets in the trust, and through it, you can provide very specific instructions for how, when, and by what means you want the funds to be distributed to your chosen beneficiaries.

Iowa allows for living trusts that you can create while you are alive, as well as testamentary trusts that become active after your death. You have several different types of trusts you can create. The most common include:

  • Revocable – These types of trusts can be altered or terminated as needed while you are alive. The grantor, or the one creating the trust, can act as the trustee for tax purposes during their lives and establish a successor trustee to take over after their passing.
  • Irrevocable – Conversely, irrevocable trusts do not allow the grantor to make changes, and the instrument must name a trustee who is not the grantor. The grantor must give up control of the assets in the trust, and they will not be included as part of the grantor’s taxable income.
  • Special needs trusts – If you want to provide for a disabled family member, you can create a special needs trust to help them financially without the risk that they would lose their federal and state disability benefits.
  • Charitable remainder trusts – You can use a trust to provide donations to specific charities or non-profit organizations.

You can even create an honorary trust to specify care for your pets upon your passing or incapacitation, and you can use it to fund the costs of caring for your animals.

What Trusts Can Do

Many people don’t fully understand what a trust is or how it works, and you should take into account several factors as you make your decisions.

  1. A trust is not just for the rich, and can help protect assets of any size. When you think of trusts, you may imagine a child who has received a vast fortune from their parents or grandparents, and you may feel you have to have a lot of money and assets to justify creating a trust. While trusts are typically more expensive to create than wills, you do not have to have millions of dollars in the bank to fund the trust once it’s created. You may also fund the trust with assets other than money, and the attorneys at Arenson Law Group, PC can explain what you can and cannot include in your trust.
  2. A trust keeps your matters private. Unlike a will, which must be recorded in probate court and becomes a matter of public record, trusts do not have a requirement for making their terms public, even following your death. This allows you to place specific provisions in your trust that may expose sensitive information you do not want others to see.
  3. Trusts allow you to make specific requirements for inheritances. In a will, you can pass on money and other valuable assets to your heirs, and you can exclude heirs from receiving an inheritance. However, you usually cannot place exceptions or conditions in the will regarding when or by what means a beneficiary can receive their inheritance. For instance, you may want to ensure the beneficiary graduates from college, has a steady job, or has completed alcohol or drug abuse treatment before receiving their inheritance, and you can add those stipulations to your trust.
  4. A trust can protect your assets from creditors. When you die, your estate will have to be settled, and that includes paying off all your creditors before beneficiaries can receive their inheritances. Certain trusts, particularly irrevocable trusts, can shield your assets and protect them from claims made by creditors.

A powerful tool, a trust can provide specific details regarding your final wishes and protect your assets from creditors. However, they are complex legal arrangements that require a complete understanding of estate laws in order to use them to your best advantage.

Contact Us for Help

The Cedar Rapids estate planning attorneys at Arenson Law Group, PC have helped hundreds of clients across Iowa establish and enforce their trusts. You can contact us at (319) 363-8199 to request a confidential consultation so we can help you with yours, too.

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