We do a lot of estate planning - wills, trusts, powers of attorney, directives to physicians - the kinds of document that, when you need it, it's too late to get it. Important safeguards for when you're vulnerable. The foundation on which your contingency planning rests. The arrows in your advance planning quiver! You get the picture...
Time was when law firms would keep the client's original documents in a safe (where the term "safekeeping" originates - prove me wrong!), ostensibly so the client would always know where they were and be comfortable they hadn't been stolen or lost. Unfortunately, a lot of firms seemed to hold those documents hostage, to guilt clients into coming back to that firm when revisions needed to be made - or, worse, when it was time to probate a will. For that reason, we rarely keep original documents unless we're specifically requested to do so. That puts the burden on the client to keep track of the originals.
Important? Absolutely (Safeguards! Foundation! Arrows!). So I'm surprised how often we get calls from clients asking whether we have copies of the documents we prepared for them, because they can't seem to locate the originals. Understand, we give the same spiel to every client when the documents are executed: put the originals in a firebox at your house or, at the very least, in a locked file cabinet. Make sure the people you've designated as your surrogates know where they are and can get to them. Don't write on the originals! (But that's another blog).
If you're going to make the investment of time and resources to have your estate planning documents prepared, be sure you know where they are and can lay your hands on them. It's much more expensive to try to probate a copy of a lost will, or get a nursing home/hospital/lender/government agency to accept a copy of the power of attorney without seeing the original, than it is to invest in a secure box and stick your documents in it. And make yourself a note of the lock combination. Just sayin'...