Part of planning your personal finances and staying organized is knowing how to store your legal documents and personal records. As much as it is more of staying organized, it also helps in the event of a disaster. Let’s think about it: how many ever think a disaster will happen? We have the idea of it possibly happening at the back of our minds. But we never pay too much attention to it.
And this will certainly not end well for you if your most personal and important legal documents are scattered all over the place. If there is a natural disaster, a fire, or any emergency and you have the opportunity to save your documents, you can always grab them on the go if they are well organized. But with everything scattered all over the place, you will probably spend the better part of the coming months trying to replace them.
To that end, here are a few ideas on how to store your legal documents and personal records:
Safe Deposit Box
Most banks have a safety deposit service where their clients can store their documents safely. The banking facility will mostly have a heavily guarded vault with alarms, video monitors, motion sensors, and other safety features.
Some banks use physical keys where you will have one for your box, and the bank keeps an extra copy. Both keys are usually needed to open your security deposit at any time. Other banks use keyless access, like your biometrics.
While safety deposit boxes are among the safest places to store your legal documents and personal records, they are not easily accessible. You can only access your safe deposit during bank hours.
Storing Documents at Home
You can also store your documents at home, where most people do. But how do you ensure your documents are stored securely?
There are several options for storing your documents safely at home. First, and the most affordable, is having a filing cabinet and a dedicated space for the most important documents. In addition, some filing cabinets are made from fire-resistant material, adding an extra layer of security.
The second option is a safe box. There are affordable options, but some will cost you a significant amount. However, these could provide extra features like waterproofing, fire-resistant, and drop resistance.
If you have your documents in a flash drive or a hard disk, you can store these in your filing cabinet or your safe deposit.
Another option to consider is either wall safe or a floor safe, especially if you are worried about safety. These are more concealable than having a freestanding safe sitting on your home office desk or wardrobe.
Online Documents Storage
Cloud storage is not just for companies. You can also use services like Google Drive, Apple Store, Microsoft OneDrive, or Dropbox to store your records and legal documents. One of the benefits of using cloud storage is that it is easily accessible. You can access your documents anytime as long as you have a compatible device. It is also easy to organize your information digitally.
Most importantly, you can use your available storage to backup other items. Unfortunately, while online storage can be safe with the right password, it is not always 100% secure. Online information is susceptible to hackers and data breaches from unwelcome parties.
What Documents Should You Store?
The important documents you have will sometimes depend on where you are in life and what you have.
1. Legal Documents
Examples of legal documents to keep safely include:
- Birth certificates
- Marriage certificates
- Adoption papers
- Death certificates of important family members
2. Financial Records
Your financial records are as important and personal as your legal documents.
- Bank statements
- Investment statements
- Pension plan or retirement account records
- Receipts and invoices from significant purchases
3. Medical Records
You need to ensure any documents that touch on your medical history are stored safely and in easy to access areas by people you trust. These will ensure your wishes are met if you are incapacitated, or anything happens.
- Health insurance policies
- Medical bills
- Power of attorney
- Burial instructions
4. Property Records
Do you own any properties? If yes, you need to gather, organize and keep the below documents safely;
- Title deeds
- Vehicle registration documents
- Insurance policies for properties, like home and auto insurance
- Mortgage agreement and statements
5. Tax Records
Any tax documents, like filed returns and payments slips, are important. What happens if the tax body wants to audit your finances? Having your documents organized will make them easier to access.
Storing your legal documents and personal records is an important aspect of managing and planning your finances. You must ensure your documents are easily accessible but secure and not accessible to just everyone. For example, your bank could provide a safety deposit for you. You can also opt for a safe box at home. And, if you want something affordable, maybe consider a filing cabinet in your home or cloud storage.