When I first started my law practice, I just had my computer, my cell phone, and the idea that I wanted to work on my own. After I started to find clients, I realized a good business practice would be to hold onto paper copies of documents I prepared once they were signed and completed. I needed a filing cabinet. Not exactly the “latest technology,” but definitely necessary. The tried and true filing cabinet “technology,” if a client ever lost their copy of the estate planning documents, I have backup copy stored for them.
Keeping copies of my client’s estate planning documents required space. I got a two drawer filing cabinet, thinking two drawers worth of filing cabinets would give me plenty of space to grow. While a two drawer filing cabinet was enough for the first year I was in practice, as I kept growing, I realized only one filing cabinet, and two drawers, would no longer be enough. This blog is the story of how I keep expanding my filing cabinet space, why me having more filing cabinets matters to you. It is the story of how my law practice continues to evolve and best serve the families in Colorado who choose to work with me.
At first I tried to cram as many files as possible into that one filing cabinet, and it became pretty stuffed, and eventually it became so full that it was hard to pull a file out, much less put another file into the cabinet. Knowing that I would need more filing cabinets, I did what any person who needed filing cabinets would do, I searched Craigslist for free or inexpensive filing cabinets. I found some and brought them home, where they found a new place to reside – my basement. At some point, my wife suggested that storing filing cabinets was not how she envisioned the best use of space in our house.
I agreed, and since I had started to notice working from home had many distractions – dogs / kids / TV / bed for a nap / food in the kitchen – I thought I could be more efficient in working if I found an office space. I found office space at a co-working / office share space called Office Evolution. This particular company has locations all across the Front Range of Colorado – and although the company was only local back when I started on with them, they now have locations nationwide. I moved into a small office and began working to expand my business practice and find more clients.
Last year, I moved into a bigger office to accommodate the larger number of filing cabinets and space I needed. I wondered how many more filing cabinets I could fit in my new space, and ended up adding two more just a week ago. I needed to have enough filing cabinet space to keep my client files organized, findable, and ready to pull out of the filing cabinet when needed. An important part of my job is to keep things organized, both in setting up an estate plan and keeping track of the documents.
With estate planning, most clients ask me about where documents are stored and whether they are filed with the State or another agency. There is not an agency that holds onto all of the estate planning documents, so I do that. Adding new filing cabinets to my office space allowed me to have more space and be ready to serve more clients, which works best for everyone!
Organization is Key
When setting up any estate plan, organization is a key consideration. I want to help you have a clear plan on what will happen to your assets and how you can set up a plan to transfer assets to your heirs or beneficiaries without causing trouble. This means that I need to know about your assets, what the assets are, how and where the assets are held, and how you want to disburse assets at your death. Such conversations take time – I generally plan on an hour, or so to have the discussions. That way, I can discover what your thoughts are and how to put your wishes into an organized, written estate plan. The more clearly organized and expressed your wishes are, the better your wishes can be carried out after your death.
Your Wishes and Desires Can Change Over Time
Of course, your wishes and desires can change over time. This may be because your life circumstances change. You may accumulate more assets, or you may have more children. You may have grandchildren, or you may decide you just want to change how you are living your life. When that happens, you need to revisit your estate plan and reorganize. Reorganizing can be a big job. I added two new filing cabinets to my office, but it was going to be easier to move empty filing cabinets, so I pulled out all of the 2000+ files I have for my client and piled them up. It was quite a sight to see them all in one place, and in stacks.
Once I had all of the files pulled out of the nearly full cabinets, I placed the new filing cabinets in the row. I now have almost a full wall of filing cabinets, and I had to put all the files back into the new set of filing cabinets. I spent a couple of hours on a Saturday morning working on the project. My wife and kids were out of town, so it was a good use of a Saturday. I can tell my business is growing, just based on these needs. I am happy to help anyone who needs it, including you. If we need to revisit your estate plan, your documents may have a new location, but you will be set up like you need to be with a current estate plan.
How to Keep Your Estate Plan Safe – Where Should I Store My Estate Plan?
Most people ask me where they should store their estate plan. I tell them to store the estate plan somewhere that is safe, but findable. Your agents under a power of attorney should have a copy of the power of attorney. There is no state agency in Colorado that keeps powers of attorney on file, or that monitors such things. Your will or trust can be stored in a safe deposit box, filing cabinet at home – fireproof, or not – or somewhere else that allows for access, but also provides security.
Many of the counties in Colorado no longer accept a copy of your will to be stored until your death. Instead, your personal representative will need to take the will to the probate court at the time of your death. This is an important responsibility, and you want to help your personal representative carry out their duties. Just in case, I keep a signed, original copy of your documents in the filing cabinets to provide to your family if they cannot find your original copy. I have assisted many clients in this manner.
A Story of How My Backup Copy Saved the Day
Several years ago, I had a gentleman who put his will in such a safe place that nobody could find it after he died. His children called me and I provided them with the signed original document that I had. His children could then go through the probate process to distribute their father’s assets. We were all happy I kept a copy, as his copy disappeared, and has never been found.
As I Help More People, I Need More Space, so I Need More Filing Cabinets
The more estate plans I prepare, the more filing cabinet space I need. I want to help people, so I am happy to need more. I will happily take the time to acquire more filing cabinets and reshuffle the files in those cabinets as often as needed if it means I am helping others. I do have a filing cabinet that contains only the files of clients who have passed on. I keep these files separate so that I can find them if needed. Over time, I will likely be able to dispose of these files, but some of them were my good friends and not just clients, so I hold onto the documents for both legal and sentimental reasons.
I want to help as many people as I can, and I want to help you, your family, and your friend, so please send them my way so that I need more filing cabinets. You can feel good about causing me more work and making me need more filing cabinets. Let me help you and help your friends be ready. Who knows? I may even need a second wall of filing cabinets!