Reader Jacqueline submitted the following to Ask Unclutterer:
I am a fairly organized person and nearly 80 years old. I have no close relatives, and have asked kind friends to manage things after I die. I want to make things as easy for them as possible. The idea of scanning all my records appeals to me but the time needed to spend scanning five years of income tax records in addition to everything else is more than daunting. I have one plastic bin with the income tax stuff filed in large ziplock bags for each year, and another bin for the other records. Is there an easier way?
Are you doing your taxes yourself or do you have an accountant? If you have an accountant, ask him/her to store your documents for you. If your accountant says no, ask your lawyer if he/she can do it. My grandmother is 100 and her lawyer has been keeping her tax documents for the past 10 years, so I know it’s not an uncommon request.
There are also services that will scan papers for you, like Office Drop. You load up a pre-paid envelope or box, ship it off to the scanning company, and then they send you back the papers and a disc with the data. You can also choose to have them simply upload your documents online so you have an additional backup accessible from anywhere. After the papers are returned to you, you can shred them and be done with the process. It’s obviously more expensive than doing it yourself, but it will save you considerable time.
Honestly, since you say you’re “fairly organized,” I don’t know if you need to digitize your documents. Once a year, review your files with your friends and/or estate lawyer, and see if they have any questions about where important documents are located. Make a photocopy of the most valuable papers and put them in a safety deposit box at your bank. Give a copy of the key to your lawyer or friend in case of emergency (and notify the bank of this), and don’t worry about it any more. It sounds like you have been great at keeping clutter out of your files, which will be extremely helpful to anyone who may need to access your files in the future.
Thank you, Jacqueline, for submitting your question for our Ask Unclutterer column. Check the comments for additional suggestions from our readers.
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