It is extremely important to keep your last will and testament and other end of life documents in a safe place. It may sound very patronising to make this statement however important documents and files are increasingly being lost due to poor digital death planning. To store your files safely both in the virtual and real word you need to tell someone where they are kept. By telling someone you instantaneously make the location a much safer place for them to reside in.
The 'storing your will and your important documents' guide
We have outlined a number of different options for storing your important documents below. We hope that these help ensure that your last will and testament and your end of life wishes are adhered to. If you have any suggestions as to how this process could be improved please do get in touch.
1. Print out / save hard copies of your will and your end of life wishes
We strongly recommend that you dust off your printer and print anything saved digital that gives directions as to what your end of life wishes are.
In today’s ever digitised world you may be inclined to do everything online and only save it on your computer or in the cloud. If you have written a will online you will need to print and sign it in front of two witnesses who are not beneficiaries to make it legally binding. When carrying out this task we recommend that you should print at least three versions of each document.
For legally binding documentation (such as your Last Will & Testament) again print it at least three times and sign each document accordingly. If you have photos and videos that you would like to be passed down in a accessible format you may want to print some of your photos and/or burn a DVD that contains some of your video files.
If you would like to pass down the photos and videos in a high quality you may want to take them to your local photo printers. These include Boots (online and in store) in the UK and Wallmart (online and in store) in the USA.
2. Save hard copies of your documents in safe places
Now that you have three copies of each document you should save them in the following locations:
- In your home. Dedicate a suitable box or draw to keep these important documents safe. Now tell someone where your assigned location is).
- Provide a copy to your documents to your assigned executor(s). This may be a family member, your partner or a close friend.
- If you decide to use a solicitor you may want to leave a copy of your documents with them. There may however be a cost for both you and those left behind if you do use a solicitor. We recommend that you request all storage costs to be sent to you (in writing) before you appoint them to carryout any tasks in the future.
3. Save copies digitally
Saving copies of your important documents, files, photos and videos digitally can make life a lot easier on those you leave behind. You should have a offline copy for most of your important files (this may not be the case for password documentations and other regularly updated documents).
To create a digital copy of your Last Will and Testament, your funeral wishes etc you may need to ‘scan’ and save the original document. If you do not have a scanner you may want to download a scanner application for your iPhone or Android. This will allow you to (kind of) scan your important documents and email to yourself a copy of them (as a PDF).
4. Saving your important folders on your computer
Saving a copy of your important documents on your computer or laptop can be a good idea however this can create security issues if the documentation is sensitive (especially if the computer is used by other friends and relatives). Furthermore, if you use a password for your computer or you encrypt specific files that store your documents
If you do save your important documents in a folder on your computer you will need to tell someone both the password to your computer and the assigned password for your encrypted folder (if you decide to encrypt the folder).
- Encrypting files and folders on your computer
5. Saving copies of your files and folders on an external hard drive
External hard drives can be a great way to store and then share your important documents and files. If you plan to pass down a large number of media files (like photos and videos) this can be a easy way to do so.
Most external hard drives that you can purchase today connect to all laptops computers and macs. You may want to purchase one or more external hard drives and transfer your end of life wishes, important files, folders, documents photos and videos over to the storage device. Once transferred simply give the external hard drive to your executor, family member or solicitor.
6. Virtual depository boxes (saving documents in the cloud)
Warning: There are an increasing number of ‘online vaults’ that will ‘look after' your legacy (normally at a monthly cost). The solutions that we have reviewed do not make life easier for you or your loved ones. In many circumstances they fragment your content and make things harder for those left behind. If you are planning to save your important files ‘in the cloud’ we recommend that you carryout he following tasks beforehand:
- Keep a digital copy of your files on a designated area on your computer (as highlighted above)
- Keep a digital copy of your files on an external hard drive. (as highlighted above)
- Which online storage vault / locker / cloud solution to use?
If you save your files in the cloud do not pay to do so. The free amount of storage offered by ‘Google Drive’ or 'Dropbox' should be enough for most people to store their end of life documents and files in. If you use Google Drive or Dropbox ‘share’ the relevant folder(s) containing your files and documents immediately.
Some services may state that they add further value as yourimportant documents will not be released until after your death. If you would like some of your files not to be seen until after your death we recommend asking an accredited solicitor to carryout this task for you instead. The cost of a solicitor to carryout this task will probably be less than the monthly charges accumulated by services with a monthly subscription. It may be ironic for us to state this but "just because a process can be carried out online it doesn't necessarily mean that it will be better, easier or cheaper.
7. Saving files on your own your own personal cloud
In the last couple of years the ‘home cloud’ (or connected home) has started to become a popular solution for the home. In short Hard drives (such as the WD My Cloud shown below) connect to the internet connection in your home. When a device (like the WD My Cloud) is connected to the internet you are able to access the files it it on all all your internet enabled devices.
We believe that home cloud services can be great solutions for storing and sharing documents like our last will and testament, media files etc. Home cloud services may however be slightly more challenging to setup. As with all cloud storage solutions, we recommend that you have a hard copy of your important documents printed and kept in a secure location.
8. Keeping your passwords in a safe place
If you use online services you may have noticed that the service providers request that your password is changed on a regular basis. This can be confusing and very hard to manage. For further advice on managing your passwords click here. There is not however a 'best way' to manage your passwords due to the different ways in which we use different services, the number of services we each use, our relationship with our executor, the state of our health etc.
(Data from the The Digital Legacy and Digital Assets Infographic 2016)
9. Backup your data and media from your social networks
You may also want to download and save your photos, videos, messages, tweets etc from your social media sites. Simply follow the tutorials below and save them in your preferred location(s).
- How to download your data from Facebook
- How to download your data from Twitter
- How to download your data from Instagram