As a result of the recent fires in Napa and Sonoma counties I have received inquiries from clients regarding the best way to protect estate planning and other important documents. Please note that if I prepared the estate documents, I normally have the client sign a second copy, which I keep in my file in the event the client's copy is lost. Nonetheless it is still important to protect your copy as well as all other important papers. Examples of important papers include:
Home Inventory – photograph every room plus the contents of every closet and drawer in the house for insurance purposes; put the photos on a thumb drive or upload to the cloud as described below.
Insurance Policies - house, life, car, property, boat, etc.
Estate Planning Documents
Titles to vehicles
Tax Returns - first 2 pages of state and federal returns from the past 3 years
Stocks and Bonds
Bank Account Numbers
Credit Card Numbers and company phone numbers
Social Security card
Health Insurance Cards
Prescriptions - medicines and eyeglasses
Phone Numbers (if you lose your cell phone) - relatives, friends, insurance agent
Your options to protect these important papers are 1) a safety deposit box; 2) home safe; or 3) upload to the cloud. Here are the pros and cons for each option:
1) Safety Deposit Box.
Pros: 1. fireproof 2. waterproof 3. not located in your home 4. under tight security.
Cons: 1. the bank isn’t open 24 hrs a day or on Sundays 2. it’s easy to lose the key 3. there is an annual fee, and 4. limited size of the box.
Here's a link for choosing a safety deposit box: https://firstquarterfinance.com/safety-deposit-box-cost/
2) Home Safe.
Pros: 1. fireproof 2. easily accessible, 24 hours a day seven days a week 3. locked and secure if mounted to the floor and 4. it’s a one-time expense.
Cons: 1. fire proof to a point...you must know the fire rating 2. almost all at-home safes are only water resistant, not waterproof and 3) if not secured properly, could be carried off.
Here's a link for choosing a home safe: https://www.consumersearch.com/home-safes/home-safe-buying-guide
3) Upload To The Cloud.
Pros: 1. it's free or relatively cheap 2. unlimited storage capacity 3. fire proof 4. easy access – anytime and anywhere.
Cons: 1. subject to internet connectivity issues 2. security/hacking issues – important to understand your provider's security protocols.
Here's a link to a PC Magazine article that explains the cloud and compares cloud options: https://www.pcmag.com/roundup/306323/the-best-cloud-storage-providers-and-file-syncing-services
These are not either/or options. I have clients who use all three – cloud, bank box and home safe. You just need to decide what works best for you.
Hope it helps,
Law Office of Raymond B. McFalone
1990 N. California Blvd., 8th Floor
Walnut Creek, CA 94596
email - firstname.lastname@example.org
website - www.raymcfalone.com
Wills, Trusts, Probate & Estates