Page 15 - FSJ June 2012

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J U N E 2 0 1 2 / F O R E I G N S E R V I C E J O U R N A L
15
censes, passports, immigration papers,
marriage and divorce documents, and
military and Veterans Administration
records.
Medical records.
Even though the
Department of State and other foreign
affairs agencies maintain a medical file,
you may want to keep your own data-
base of records and documents. Ex-
amples of important documents are
lists of current medications, vaccination
records and past surgeries or treat-
ments.
Miscellaneous.
Other items you
may wish to keep include appraisals of
valuables, Social Security numbers, Tax
Identification Numbers, security sys-
tem codes, pet records, combinations,
contact information (for your tax pre-
parer, financial planner, attorney, etc.),
and social networking site information.
Tax returns.
Keep records of fed-
eral, state, and municipal returns for at
least three years. Refer to IRS Publi-
cation 552 for guidance.
Where to Store Records
The next decision is where and how
to keep records. First and foremost,
store them well away from your resi-
dence. Popular storage choices for
physical documents include safe de-
posit boxes and fireproof safes. How-
ever, these have some drawbacks and
may not make sense for Foreign Serv-
ice employees over the long or even
medium term.
For instance, some states may re-
strict or limit access to a safe deposit
box upon the death of an owner. Fur-
thermore, in the event of death or in-
capacity, your executor and others will
want, and should have, convenient ac-
cess to documents.
Electronic storage provides a good
solution for those in the Foreign Serv-
ice, offering security and access from
anywhere at any time. There are many
options, some better than others in
terms of security and access; so review
your choices carefully and calculate
what the costs are, if any. But no mat-
ter which alternative you go with,
please advise your spouse, trusted
friend or colleague where you have
stored these documents.
It is wise to ask your financial plan-
ning firmwhat storage services it offers.
Our firm, for example, has a secure on-
line vault for client investment reports,
estate planning documents, etc.
Several private firms offer secure
digital storage for individuals. Docu-
bank
charges a monthly fee for digital
storage of one’s advance medical direc-
tives and other estate planning docu-
ments and makes them available on
demand anywhere in the world. Indi-
viduals and some states utilize the U.S.
Living Will Registry, an online site.
Other digital storage options include
Dropbox.com, Windows Live SkyDrive
and AppleiCloud.
Some states offer repositories for
their residents’ advance medical direc-
tives either for free, or at a nominal
charge. Neither the District of Colum-
bia nor Maryland maintains a registry
of those directives, but Virginia recently
launched an Advance Health Care Di-
rectives Registry
(www.virginiaregistry.
org).
A relatively new company, Manilla.
com, might make sense for Foreign
Service personnel who have to deal
with bills while overseas. Firms de-
liver statements directly online to
Manilla.com, where they can be paid
and managed. There is no cost and
apps make it easy to manage bill-pay-
ing on smartphones. Hearst owns
Manilla.com, which is highly touted by
the
New York Times
, CNN and
Forbes
,
among others.
The Password Is…
Passwords present another concern,
due to their proliferation and increas-
ing complexity. We all recognize the
challenge of remembering passwords,
but few of us have considered how to
make them available to others in the
event of incapacity or death.
One simple solution is to assemble
a list of passwords and logon IDs and
hold it in a secure place. Alternatively,
many financial planners maintain on-
line ID and password lists in a secure
file for their clients.
For a nominal price, several special-
ized firms offer storage of passwords
and other information so they can be
easily obtained from anywhere if for-
gotten or required by others to manage
one’s financial affairs in the event of
death or incapacity. Before making in-
formation available to beneficiaries,
such firms generally use “verifiers” to
determine if the client is incapacitated
or has died. These companies include
Legacy Locker, DataInherit and Plann-
ed Departure.
Protect Your Property
Another challenge for many in the
Foreign Service is how to protect
F S K
N O W
- H
O W
Electronic storage
is a good solution for
FS members, offering
security and access from
anywhere at any time.