So much of our lives is digital now. From our phones to parts of our cars, many things that used to be tangible are now virtual. This can also include important documents involved in your planning. There are some paper documents that you will always need in your estate planning. Many important documents, such as a social security card or birth certificate, may be decades old. Therefore, if they get lost, you should know how to replace them. AARP’s recent article entitled, “You’ve Lost an Important Document. Now What?” breaks it down for you.
Passport. To avoid becoming a victim of identity theft, report a lost or stolen passport by calling 877-487-2778 or completing Form DS-64 online at travel.state.gov. You can also print the form at the website and mail it to the U.S. State Department. To get a replacement passport, you must submit a Form DS-11 in person at a passport office.
Birth certificate. Contact the vital records office in the state where you were born and order a replacement.
Marriage certificate. Contact the clerk of the county where the license was issued. This office will let you know the documents required, the cost and how the copy can be issued (online, by mail, or in person).
Social Security card. First, consider the need for a replacement because you rarely need the physical card. However, a replacement card should be obtained if you’re starting a new job or live in a state where you need it to apply for a Real ID. To obtain a new Social Security card, you’ll need a birth certificate, driver’s license, state-issued identification card, or a passport. You should then complete an application on the Social Security website (ssa.gov) and mail or take your application and original documents to your Social Security office (the website has information on locations). The replacement card is free.
Will. Laws relating to estate planning are different in each state. However, generally, if your will was accidentally lost or destroyed and not revoked, it will still be valid and represent your wishes. A copy of the will can be submitted to the court at your death. However, you must have left behind clear evidence that you didn’t revoke it—proof that it was accidentally destroyed or lost or testimony from an impartial third party stating that you didn’t plan to change it. Your heirs will also need evidence that it’s a true copy, which the original witnesses or attorney can confirm.
Car Title. The replacement process for the title to your vehicle varies by state. Contact your Department of Motor Vehicles. You may be able to submit a form, or you have to submit a photo ID, vehicle registration, or registration renewal notice.
While the convenience and portability of digital documents is helpful, there will always be paper documents you will need in your estate planning. Ensure you have a plan to protect your documents. Work closely with an experienced estate planning attorney to get it done. If you would like to learn more about essential estate planning documents, please visit our previous posts.
Reference: AARP (Feb. 14, 2023 ) “You’ve Lost an Important Document. Now What?”