Why It’s Important to have Secured Documents on Hand in an Emergency (and How to Keep Them Safe)

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No one likes to think of something happening to someone they love, to their home, or to their place of business—but in the case of an emergency, being prepared can help ease the burden for everyone involved. After all, the only thing worse than a sudden emergency is one with all kinds of personal and financial fallout - and while documents like wills, trusts, and healthcare directives aren’t something the average client or business owner thinks about every day, not having them on hand can be a big mess.

Fortunately, technology can make keeping important documents safe easier than ever. With secure digital vault and estate planning platforms, storing investment records, wills, guardianship agreements, trusts, power of attorney documents, and other important files doesn’t need to be difficult—it also doesn’t have to be something you or your clients only think about later in life. Digital vaults exist to make it easy to save and store your documents now—which can help you securely prepare for the future.

Digital Storage Saves Time Today

While some important documents (like wills, healthcare directives or power of attorney) are generally only used in the event of an accident or illness, many documents—such as bank statements, tax filings, mortgage documents, or insurance policies—are important to have on hand day to day. Whether you’re making changes to these agreements or you just need to keep the right documents around in case of emergency, it’s crucial that you and your clients are able to access what you need, when you need it—which is why some forms of physical storage (like safety deposit boxes, filing systems, locked vaults, or even the freezer!) aren’t ideal.

Digital vaults—secure virtual tools that allow you to keep copies of important documents safe, accessible, and organized—are one way to solve this problem.

Storing day-to-day paperwork (such as tax filings, insurance documents, signed mortgage documents, or investment records) in a digital vault not only keeps them safe, it can also make them easy to access. Unlike filing cabinets, folders in a home office, or shoeboxes full of paper receipts, digital vault systems are structured and searchable, so you can pull up the files you need in minutes. This is helpful not just for your clients—who will appreciate the ease of a structured, searchable database—but also for your organization, where workflow times can be cut down significantly.  

For financial services organizations, digital storage and modern document management systems save your employees time on each client interaction, from time spent pulling records to getting documents signed and digitized. They can also save you time overall when it comes to audit preparation or regulatory compliance measures. In a digital vault, signed paperwork related to investments, medical receipts, or taxes can be not only tracked and filed easily, they can also be accessed immediately, or provided to auditors with a designated set of access permissions (such as FutureVault’s patented Trusted Advisor permissioning model). This can ultimately result in several days and thousands of dollars in savings, in addition to reducing overall anxiety and stress levels.

Digital Storage Gives you Peace of Mind for the Future

Your information is valuable, but unlike an heirloom diamond or a collectible piece of art, there’s no reason to hang onto piles of papers in a vault or safety deposit box. In fact, storing important documents electronically can be a way for you—and for your clients—to keep important documents private, secure, and easily accessible. For example, in the event of a fire or other natural disaster, how or where would you keep your Will?

Some guidance suggests leaving documents such as wills, trusts, or other important papers in safe deposit boxes, physical filing systems, or even in the freezer (yes, you read that correctly!). More traditional methods—such as keeping these documents with a lawyer or financial services representative—can cause privacy concerns and difficulty with retrieval. After all, any time you have a physical document with no digital counterpart, it’s possible for that document to get lost, ruined, or destroyed—lawyers can die, retire, or move offices, and the documents you thought were easy to find can suddenly mean a network of phone calls hunting down a file, or worse, never being able to ever retrieve them.

Unlike physical documents, those stored digitally can be backed up, updated, and stored for any time you need them—with no freezer necessary… but you might still consider needing one for your meats, of course.

With an aging population—and 78 million dementia sufferers expected by the year 2030—it’s more important than ever to have secure document storage options for wills, trusts, guardianship documents, and power of attorney instructions.

In 2021, the Canadian Securities Association introduced new guidelines that require registrants take reasonable steps to obtain a Trusted Contact Person (TCP) for each client—someone that could be alerted if they had any concerns about the client’s ability to make financial decisions, and to keep them from being exploited. If the client refuses to appoint one, advisors can defer to whoever is given Power of Attorney, but if no contact is updated by the time the client becomes unable to make their own decisions, it’s already too late. Standardized checklists—like the ones integrated into digital vault platforms—prove to be an efficient way to streamline your organization’s process around information and document collection, so that this particular step doesn’t get missed.

Storing documents for the future can give you peace of mind over where important information lives, who has access to it, and how it can be retrieved. The same Trusted Advisor permissioning model that organizations can use to provide auditors or key personnel with access to important data can also be used in the event of an aging family member, or one without the mental capacity to make decisions for themselves, giving them complete control over which family members and third party service professionals have the right to access their information.

Digital Storage Meets Clients Needs

In addition to giving you and your clients a quick, secure way to store their information, digital vaults can also make it easy for clients to pull up their documents themselves. Financial literacy is more important than ever—in the years since the pandemic, it’s become obvious how essential it is for clients to have a working knowledge of their own finances—and for your employees to be able to access documents securely both in and out of the office.

Whether it’s signed paperwork, bills of sale, investment statements, documents for tax time, or the big items—like wills, trusts, or guardianship papers—giving your clients peace of mind means not only storing their documents safely, but also making them easily accessible for them to review and understand. In a post-pandemic world, where many organizations are going paperless, it’s more important than ever.

Rather than having to call your office to access statements and reports or waiting for the carrier pigeon to drop them off, clients leveraging a digital vault provided to them can easily and secure access such document on their own—making it easier for them to stay up to date on their portfolio performance, among many other things. McKinsey research on open financial data suggests that this can not only help give clients better access to financial services, it can also save time on onboarding and offer increased efficiency for your organization.

Documents like wills, estate planning paperwork, guardianship agreements, power of attorney documents, and trusts are sensitive and private—and your clients don’t want any more administrative barriers than necessary. Keeping data stored safely and securely in a digital vault can not only save you time today, it can protect your client’s peace of mind—so that in the event of something ever happens to them in the future, they’ll be already taken care of.


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