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safely store your legal documents

Once you’ve gone through the process of estate planning, it’s important to safely store your legal documents for their protection. Records like trusts, powers of attorney, wills, medical directives, marriage licenses, and birth certificates should be kept in a secure location.  It is also important to keep a spreadsheet or other document listing all your assets. By doing this, family members won’t have to worry about finding the legal documentation they need in the event of your passing.

What Storage Options Are Available To You?

In our digital age, there are many different ways to store documents aside from traditional paper filing. While maintaining paper copies of records is beneficial, it is convenient and eco-friendly to save digital copies of documents as well. Digital records are stored in a few ways, such as:

  • On a USB flash drive (also called a “thumb” drive)
  • On an external hard drive (best for large amounts of data)
  • With an online data storage service or “cloud” (easily transferrable across multiple parties)

Similar to paper records, storage devices should always be kept in a secure location such as a home safe or safety deposit box. Whichever way you prefer to store them, keep in mind that others may need access at some point. For this reason, having multiple copies in different formats (i.e. paper and digital) can make retrieving your information that much easier.

Pre-Existing Digital Information

With so many estate planning documents to maintain, it’s easy to forget about digital assets. Email, social media, web accounts, and subscriptions should all be considered during estate planning. Providing an estate executor or agent with your various login information will allow any outstanding bills to be settled and accounts to be closed.

An easy and secure way to do this is to set up a password manager that stores your login credentials safely in one place. Others can be given access to this information as well, making it highly useful in the event of an emergency.

Getting Organized: Document Storage And Data Recovery

Digital storage options can seem overwhelming and even confusing at times, but they do have their uses. If you don’t feel confident in setting up a storage system for your digital files, then consider asking a friend or family member to assist you. By going with a free cloud storage service, such as Microsoft OneDrive or Google Drive, your documents are readily available anywhere that you have internet access. These systems are automatically backed up by the service provider, so you don’t have to worry about maintaining or losing important files.

Other storage systems, like external hard drives and USB flash drives, require a periodic backup to ensure that document files are updated and have not been corrupted. For convenience, backups can be scheduled in advance through your computer’s backup management controls. It is generally a good idea to have multiple methods of document storage in case one of them is compromised. Additionally, both physical storage devices and paperwork are best kept in a fireproof safe or lockbox when not in use.

Scanned Copies of Legal Documents

An important step in securing your legal records is to make digital copies of paper documents. Examples of these are your driver’s license, social security card, and passport. Even though scanned copies are not legal copies, they do provide a form of documentation if the original copy is lost, stolen, or damaged. This will make replacing the document less of a hassle. Also, having a digital copy of these documents makes it easier to share your information with others when necessary.

Digital Storage Considerations

When shopping for a digital storage device, you may notice that there are different storage size options. If you have a large amount of data or media files (music, videos, photos, etc.) you will want an external hard drive with at least 1.0 Terabyte of storage. For storing a limited number of text documents or file scans, a USB flash drive should be sufficient.

Access to Financial Records

Keep in mind that after your passing, someone may be required to access your financial accounts. To do this, they will need your:

  • Account number
  • Username & password
  • Social Security number
  • Online account URL/web address

If you have questions or concerns about how to store information, seek out an advisor or legal associate who can help secure your documents safely and effectively.

Estate Planning Document Storage Services

To further simplify the process of organizing and storing your digital records, there are a few types of services available. For example, Mind Your Loved Ones (MYLO) is a mobile app that stores your medical directives, care records, and insurance billing information. This is useful when information needs to be accessed while you’re away from home or on the go. Your information can also be quickly shared with healthcare providers and insurance companies through text, email, fax, or hard copy. MYLO’s storage system is also 100% local (instead of cloud-based) providing extra security for sensitive information.

Another service is, where legal documents and personal records are stored in a secure system online. To make estate planning easier, Everplans offers both free and premium plans based on your individual needs. Registered users have access to features like document sharing, reminder alerts, estate planning guides, and informational content.

Secure Your Estate Documentation With An Elder Law Attorney

Maintaining legal documents and evolving estate plans can be challenging and time-consuming at best. To guarantee the security of your records, personal information, and estate preferences for the long term, consult with a qualified elder law attorney. This way, you can stay informed and updated throughout the estate planning process.

Bromlow Law, PLLC and Laura L. Bromlow, are dedicated to the practice of Elder Law and Estate Planning. Our practice focuses solely on working with clients in these and closely related legal fields. Laura L. Bromlow is a Certified Elder Law Attorney with the National Elder Law Foundation. Bromlow Law, PLLC strives to enhance communication among family members and loved ones and to keep them all out of conflict so they can stay out of court. We want to help you keep your close circle safe!

Please contact our office today at (281) 665-3807 to schedule a free consultation to discuss your legal matters. We look forward to the opportunity to work with you.

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