How to Store Legal Documents Safely and Securely
People tend to overlook the importance of storing important documents.
Documents like your social security information or tax returns should be protected from burglars.
These documents can be just as tempting to steal as your big screen TV.
Below, we will look at five of our most important documents and ways to keep them secure and out of the wrong hands.
Table of Contents
Five Important Documents to Secure
Annual Tax Returns
It’s okay to get rid of supporting documents after three years, but you should keep your annual tax returns forever.
After three years, the IRS loses its chance to perform an audit.
Once three years have gone by, it’s okay to toss the rest of the documents.
However, your yearly tax returns should be kept somewhere safe forever.
Before taking your passport with you on vacation, make a copy of it and keep it with you in case it is lost or stolen while you are traveling.
At home, make sure your passport is locked up where only you can get it.
Your original will is likely kept with your attorney.
However, you should have received two copies of it.
It’s a good idea to keep one of these copies in a safe deposit box, and the other copy locked safe at home.
Every member of your family will have a birth certificate.
It’s recommended that you make copies of everyone’s birth certificate to keep in your files at home.
The originals should be kept in a safe deposit box.
You may need to access the information on the birth certificates at a moment’s notice, so keeping a copy close by is a good idea.
Social Security Cards
You should always keep your social security card locked up in a safe at home.
Never keep your social security card with you in your wallet.
That’s a very easy way to lose your social security card or have it, along with your identity, stolen.
Four Ways To Store Your Legal Documents
Safety Deposit Box
A safety deposit box can be rented from your bank and is a fireproof metal box.
A safety deposit box is a very secure place for irreplaceable items, like heirloom jewelry or your stamp collection, as well as essential documents like the ones we talked about above.
Safety deposit boxes are very secure because your bank restricts who can access your box, even if they have a key.
Typically, anyone who accesses your box must be a co-renter on the bank’s rental agreement, or a bank employee must witness them be granted as your agent.
The purpose of a safety deposit box is that you and other people cannot easily access the contents of it.
The safety deposit box is entirely inaccessible during non-banking hours.
And it’s overly complicated for someone other than you to access what’s inside.
That can be an issue if something ever happens to you, and a family member needs access to what’s inside, like your living will or health care power of attorney in an emergency.
It will obviously be complicated to access if you are traveling and need access to these documents.
Home Filing Cabinet
A metal filing cabinet that can be purchased for use in the home can be obtained at most office supply stores.
However, this is probably the least secure place to store important legal documents.
When you use a filing cabinet to store your documents, they are only as secure as the lock on your front door or home security system.
In your cabinet, your documents are also susceptible to potential disasters like fires or floods.
Your documents are very accessible in an emergency if you keep them in a cabinet in your home.
Anyone with access to your home can access them, as long as they have a key to your cabinet and know where it is in your home.
But that also means they can be easily accessed by a home intruder who breaks into your house.
A Home Safe
A small fireproof safe, locked with a key or a combination, can be purchased for less than $100 and kept in your home.
A fireproof safe at home is a good midpoint between an extremely secure safety deposit box at your bank and a relatively unsecure and unsafe filing cabinet in your home.
You should keep your home safe bolted down and hidden somewhere in your home so a thief can’t easily find it, making it very secure.
The home safe is a good compromise between security and accessibility.
You can share the location and the combination of your safe with someone you trust, so it is accessible at all times by you or someone else.
It’s important to share a key or the combination with someone you trust so they can access it if you are ever incapacitated.
This makes a home fire-safe or fire-box an excellent option for storing critical original documents.
Home safes are ideal if they need to be accessed in an emergency or on short notice but still provide you with an extra level of security.
Online Document Storage
With online document storage, you can store digital versions of your legal documents online.
Your digital documents will be accessible with a login and password from any computer, anywhere, anytime.
Storing your documents online is very secure, as long as you do it the right way.
Your legal documents will only be accessed by you or the people you have shared them with.
Always be sure you use a hard to guess password to protect your documents from would-be hackers.
Online document storage is a great way to share legal documents while keeping them accessible.
Your documents can be shared with anybody who has an email address or access to a computer.
Your documents can be accessed anywhere, whether at work, on vacation, or at an internet cafe during an emergency.
Online storage is also an excellent way to back up your physical legal papers that are stored in a safe at home or in a safety deposit box.
Most importantly, if you become incapacitated, the people with whom you have shared your legal documents online can access your living will, healthcare directive, power of attorney, etc.
There are no keys to keep track of, you don’t have to find a spot to hide a safe, or be in the unfortunate situation, on a Saturday, of needing important legal documents contained in a safety deposit box you don’t have access to.
Be Secure With CoCounselor
As we mentioned above, sometimes your lawyer will also store your important legal documents.
That’s why it’s essential to choose to work with an attorney who has a secure way to store your documents, both physically and virtually.
CoCounselor is a cloud-based law practice management solution that allows lawyers and law firms to bring everything online securely.
Instead of fumbling around with all of your papers and worrying about keeping them safe, with CoCounselor, your attorney can access everything from their computer or smartphone.
To request a demo for your law firm, click the button below.