First of all, give some thought as to which documents need to be stored securely. The simplest way to do this is to think in terms of how easy or difficult it would be to replace the document in question and what would be the impact of it being missing.
Top of your list should be items such as your Will and Power of Attorney but also include birth and marriage certificates, divorce or other legal documents, and house deeds.
The original copies of these items should ideally be kept in a lockable fireproof, waterproof safe or box. It is prudent to have at least one and preferably two backup copies which should be held in different locations. This is the ideal time to consider whether to store physically or digitally, each having different benefits.
This option provides you with cheap and easy access to your documents. Depending on what storage you use you may be vulnerable to theft, fire or flood.
Most solicitors will store your Will for you. Some also provide a document storage facility for your important documents. There is a fee for this although it is minimal. Solicitors’ storage is regulated so you can expect redress if something goes wrong.
You can lodge your Will with the probate service. There is a flat rate fee for this and you are the only person who can access your Will while you are alive. Upon your death, your executor can access it.
There are many companies, including some banks, that provide document storage. Prices vary quite considerably so it’s worth shopping around.
Many banks no longer provide this service. However, if they do, never store your Will in one. Your executor will not be given access to it until they gain probate, which they cannot do without your Will.
Storing items digitally is straightforward. First you will either need to scan or photograph the document and then decide where you want to keep it.
This gives you easy access and can be done securely. You must password protect your PC, have a reputable, up-to-date, anti-virus software running and consider encrypting your files to protect against theft, hacking or viruses.
Cloud storage – either personal or online – allows you to access your documents from any device anywhere. Again, make sure you have the same security protections in place as above.
Remember also to completely clear the hard drive before you sell or give your computer away.
Finally, wherever you store your documents make sure your loved ones and executor know where to find them.