I was recently asked for my advice on where to store important documents. With so many of us relying on computers today, safe deposit boxes and in-home fire boxes may seem terribly out of date. However, each of these storage devices has a place in safe-keeping our records.
It is a good idea to keep hard copies of your will, power of attorney forms and any advance directives where they are safe, but easily accessible. Hospitals usually request a copy of your medical power of attorney and living will any time you are admitted for treatment. A trusted family member or the person you designate as your representative should know where to find these papers so your wishes will be followed in the event of an unexpected emergency.
Many people mistakenly keep their only copy of these documents in a bank safe deposit box. But storing them in a bank may prevent anyone from accessing them when they are needed. Banks usually require court papers before they allow anyone other than you to open your safe deposit box.
Bank safe deposit boxes remain your best choice for protecting jewelry, valuables and original documents you do not need often, including original birth certificates, property deeds, social security cards, paper bonds and securities.
As an added level of security, you can duplicate and store copies of important papers on a computer thumb drive kept with your valuables. Consider duplicating these:
– Insurance policies and agent contact information
– Original will and powers of attorney
– Digital files of family photos
– Living wills and advance care directives
One last suggestion . . . keep a list of your access information and passwords for your digital files in a safe storage location or a secure website. Include access information for your computer, cellphone, bank records, google account and other social media accounts and let someone you trust know where to find this info. This step will save you time and frustration in case you are unable to access your accounts on your own.
Safeguarding your documents and valuables is a personal decision. You may want to discuss your situation and needs with a lawyer, financial advisor or other trusted professional.