Business Columns & Blogs

Investor’s column: Here’s an easy way to keep your important papers with you at all times

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.

Recently, I had a local attorney update some estate documents for my wife and I, and it got me to thinking.

Some of the documents were the living will, the durable power of attorney, the health care surrogate and the declaration naming a pre-need guardian. Your attorney might recommend these or other documents.

With a ton of documents in my hand, I asked if I could scan and then copy them to a flash drive.

“Sure, why not?” the attorney said.

There is no personally identifiable information, such as Social Security numbers, bank account numbers, etc. The documents only have the names of us and our heirs.

I bought a metal, not plastic, flash drive, added a ring loop to it and attached it to my key ring. I then scanned and copied these legal documents to it. Password protection is optional.

I thought it was a good idea. If my clients so choose, they will be receiving a flash drive they can attach to their key ring. If they want, my office will help in the scanning and transferring of their documents to the flash drive that I’ll provide.

I had an interesting problem, and I wonder what you would do. A few weeks after receiving the updated documents, and while on vacation in Kansas City, Mo., my wife was briefly in the emergency room at a hospital. Everything worked out fine in the end.

Jim Zientara.jpg
Jim Zientara is a financial planner with Raymond James Financial Services in Lakewood Ranch.

The admission’s administrator asked if my wife had a living will and other legal documents. I said I had what was probably wanted on a flash drive that I had attached to my key ring.

The administrator hesitated because of the fear of a virus on the flash drive that could affect the hospital’s network. However, admissions did have a computer that was not on the hospital’s network.

I gave the administrator the flash drive.

The administrator returned after a few minutes and couldn’t stop talking about how wonderful the flash drive arrangement worked. It had all the documents they needed and they were up-to-date.

The administrator said she will tell the hospital, patients and everyone else about the flash drive filled with appropriate documents.

A legal question for your attorney is validity. Is your will, health care surrogate, etc., valid in other states and outside the country? My attorney couldn’t say, but having the paperwork is better than not having it.

I suggest getting your legal documents in order, because you just don’t know where you will be when you need them, regardless of your age. Bad things can also happen to young people.

Frequently, people leave their important documents in a file cabinet, a safe deposit box, with their attorney, etc. They may be secure, but how do you get to them when needed?

I quizzed one attorney who said he has written thousands of documents over many years. To store all that paperwork was beyond his ability. Only newer documents are scanned in and stored.

If you had a flash drive, I assume there is somebody, somewhere, that could print out the documents.

The flash drive is just one of many places to store documents. My company allows my clients to upload documents and other items to the Vault, a free option available online, and stored in the cloud.

Some people may feel that uploading documents to the cloud is risky. Maybe so, but the digital world knows lots about you right now anyway.

Since the hospital incident, I’ve been adding more info to my flash drive, including family pictures and other items I may need or want to have handy on a moment’s notice. There is no limit to what to add.

I’ve added other medical documents, such as my latest blood test, list of prescriptions, vitamin supplements, a list of doctors, my pre-paid funeral director, etc. The info held on the flash drive keeps growing.

I now carry my flash drive attached to my key ring. My keys are with me wherever I go.

So don’t leave home without it — your flash drive on your key ring.

Jim Zientara is a financial planner with Raymond James Financial Services, Inc. Member FINRA/SIPC. His website is and he can be reached at 941-750-6818. His office is at 11009 Gatewood Drive, Suite 101, in Lakewood Ranch.