So you’ve just completed your Life File; or you’ve made significant enough progress that you want to know how to protect it.
First off, congratulations! End of life planning is a monumental and emotionally difficult task. But in the long run it will provide you and your loved ones with peace of mind and clarity at the end of your life.
Your next steps are to make sure your Life File remains safe and secure until it is needed; and is accessible upon your death.
PLEASE NOTE: The following recommendations are for storage of your Life File only. Legally-binding documents like your will and estate plan may have different needs, and you should carefully and separately consider those needs. For example, you may decide to have your Life File kept at home in a safe, with instructions on where and how to access your will.
Secure your Life File
Your Life File needs to be stored in a place where it is unlikely to be damaged and where it will be accessible upon your death. Options include:
- At home in a fireproof and waterproof home safe. They come in all shapes and sizes — including small safes designed to hold documents. But you want to make sure it cannot be easily taken in the event of a robbery.
- With your attorney
- Online in a cloud storage device (keeping in mind that many states do not recognize digital or electronic versions of documents like Wills and Estate Plans).
It is NOT a good idea to keep your Life File in a safe deposit box. Many banks will require a court order to access a box, which could take quite a lot of time.
Make sure to create duplicate copies of your Life File no matter where you keep it. This will guard against situations where the original version is damaged, deleted, or destroyed. Duplicate handwritten or printed out Life Files. Save your Life File on multiple physical storage devices if you’re keeping it on something like a thumb drive. Save it to more than one cloud storage platform.
Tell people about your Life File
A Life File is only helpful if your loved ones know it exists. So you’ll want to have conversations with the folks who you want to carry out your wishes when you die as you are creating your Life File and once it is complete. You should make sure they know
- That you have a Life File. Duh.
- What is in the Life File. Discuss it with them so they are familiar and not reading it for the first time upon your death.
- Where the Life File is located. So they know how to access it when you die.
- How to access the Life File. The location of keys, access codes, or passwords required to get into the place where your Life File is stored.