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Traveling? Let’s Be Smarter about Our Documents

“Going on a trip? Be sure to pack your toothbrush and clean underwear. If just wandering around town, make sure there is enough gas in the car.”


One man looked at all the documents that he and his wife had signed at their estate planning attorney’s office and asked if he could scan and copy the documents onto a flash drive. The attorney agreed. Note that there were no Social Security numbers, no bank account numbers or any sensitive information on the documents. The documents contained only the couple’s names and the names of their heirs.

The man bought a metal flash drive, put a ring loop on it and attached it to his key ring. He scanned and copied the documents onto the flash drive. He did not put a password on the flash drive; some people may feel more comfortable with that.

However, what happened next proved the wisdom of his idea. A few weeks later, he and his wife were enjoying their vacation and his wife needed a visit to the emergency room at the local hospital. While in the admissions office, she was asked if she had a living will and other health care related documents. Her husband had everything with him. They had to locate a computer that was not on the hospital network, due to internal security policies. However, they found one and were able to download the documents from the flash drive.

Remember that not all states recognize documents from all other states, and if you lose your keys on a regular basis, this may not be for you. Having these documents on hand was far better than not.

Everyone, regardless of their age, should have their estate planning documents in order. Things happen, even to young people. Most people leave these documents in a safe deposit box, a filing cabinet or with their attorney. They are secure—but you don’t have ready access to them.

The flash drive is just one way to have these documents with you, while you are away from home. Some offices now offer online portals, where documents can be stored in the cloud. Not everyone is comfortable with that, but it is an option.

Other pieces of information to consider adding to your flash drive: recent medical reports, a list of prescriptions, a list of doctors and any pre-paid funeral arrangements.

Granted, this is not for everyone, so speak with your estate planning attorney about the idea of keeping your important documents on a flash drive and find out how else you might be able to maintain your important estate planning documents for secure and easy access.

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