How to Store Estate Planning Documents at Home

A Review of Binders, Portfolios and Boxes

 

Finding an appropriate container for clients’ documents can be a difficult task.  After years of experimenting and using different types of binders, portfolios and boxes, I can recommend some specific items in each of these categories that work best to store estate planning documents and other family paperwork.  Here are the best products I can find, with the pros and cons of each.  For more information about each product, clicking on the link will take you to the Amazon listing for the item.  The feedback from purchasers is always helpful in deciding if a product is right to house your own documents.

Binders for Storing Estate Planning Documents

I have purchased many binders over the years to house estate planning documents for clients.  Although I am not a fan of hole-punching legal documents, many of the financial planners who referred clients to me expected binders for documents, so these were purchased for those clients.  With that in mind, here are a few of the binders that would look professional for important papers such as estate planning documents.

Samsill 15164 Classic Collection Ring Binder Portfolio, 8-1/2 X 11, 2 Capacity, Burgundy

Although made from vinyl, these binders have a professional look, with metal corners.  The rings and spine are a gold color.  As some purchasers have mentioned on Amazon, once in a while a binder will have bent rings, making the binder useless.  I received probably 2 of these duds out of over 100 I purchased over the years.  When I first bought these about 8 years ago, the color of the burgundy was much richer. The last binders I bought were a lighter color and looked much more like vinyl.  They also had a different texture.  Not bad, just different.  The interior color is black, so if you are concerned about papers bunching at the back of the binder you will need black sheet lifters.  I also comes in a zippered version, which I have not used, but would be great for those who are concerned about losing smaller sheets of paper or pens.  All in all a great professional looking binder for important papers.

Cardinal Business Collection Sewn Vinyl Presentation Binder, 1.5 Inch Capacity, Letter Size, Burgundy (1445 710)

Very similar to the Samsill binder is the one made by Cardinal.  In the past, it was difficult to tell the difference between the two, but the ones from Samsill recently have been a slightly different shade of burgundy.  If you want a deeper color red, go with this one.

Deluxe Black Leather Professional 3-ring Portfolio By BAGS FOR LESSTM

This is a great binder for those who prefer leather.  Although it only comes in black, the main concern is the smaller silver rings.  It would work best as a document keeper for those who don’t have that much paperwork or for a single person.  It includes space for a legal pad, which could be helpful for some clients, and a business card holder.   Being black, it needs black sheet lifters and it also comes in a zippered style.  A great leather binder for the price.

For options for binders and other products typically used with binders, check out the binder category in the sidebar.

Portfolios for Storing Estate Planning Documents

I actually prefer portfolios over binders for housing estate planning documents.  Clients should (and many do) keep other family information with their estate planning documents.  From a practical standpoint, it is easier to use file folders to keep lots of different types of paperwork.  Some portfolios come with dividers already added–eliminating the need for folders at all.  Here are some of the better portfolios for housing estate planning documents.    One of the things you really have to watch, however, are the dimensions of any portfolio you are considering.  Portfolios come in all sizes from tiny to extremely large, so finding one that will be the right size for letter size documents can be difficult.  Here are some of the best ones:

David King & Co. 1/2 Flapover Envelope (Cafe)

This is a great looking leather portfolio that is slightly oversized.  It easily handles file folders and expands up to 2″ in thickness for significant paperwork.  It comes in light and dark shades and had a zipper compartment in the back which could handle CD copies of your documents or other small items.  This does not have interior compartments, so file folders are a must.

Moleskine Folio A4 Portfolio – Black (13 x 9.5) (Professional Folio Series)

Since moleskine is made from cotton, this is a great option for those who are opposed to using leather.  This terrific portfolio has several compartments (no need for folders) and has an acid-free interior.   This makes it a leading candidate for storing important estate planning documents.  The downside to moleskine is that it does wear over time, so if you plan to use the portfolio for storing all of your information, this may show some wear after being used.  Still a great product for the price.

Piel Three-Way Envelope Padfolio (Black)

This is a great option for those who want both an “sleeve” to house estate planning documents and also space to hold file folder or financial papers.  It also zips all the way around, meaning it will lay flat on the table while you update your information.   It also has pen and other item holders for those who want to keep those things handy.  The down side is that the “sleeve” may not be large enough for those with thick estate plans.  Piel also makes a two sided zip envelope with only one compartment on the interior.

Portfolio Briefcase Color: Brown

I’m including this vinyl portfolio mainly because some clients do have legal size paperwork.  Although I don’t know any attorney who uses legal paper for anything, some paperwork used to be commonly printed on legal paper, such as deeds and some wills.  For those who are looking for something to house legal size documents and that is affordable, this could work.  If you don’t need the length for legal size paperwork (or you don’t have anything on legal paper) the extra length in this portfolio would be very inconvenient.

Boxes for Storing Estate Planning Documents

Document boxes and accordion files have been used for estate planning documents for years and are very useful for managing all types of paperwork.  Some boxes are designed to lay flat (like a shirt box) and others stand tall.  Some allow for hanging folders and some do not.  Some have locks and others do not.  There are loads of accordion files available at office supply stores and other places.  Many are the typical reddish brown card stock with a flap over top.  Many of these also have dividers with pre-printed tabs–usually numbered.   Because most accordion files are so similar, I’m including a few here that are different.  For other options, click on the pictures of office products in the sidebar near the top of the page.

Cargo Atheneum File Box, Brown, 9-1/2 by 12 by 5-1/2-Inch

This file box is certainly big enough to house anyone’s documents.  It has a classic look and is made to go on a shelf.  It uses regular file folders, not hanging folders.  It also is not acid free.  If you have a small amount of paperwork to house in this type of box, you would be better served getting one that is less than 5.5 inches deep.  Otherwise, you will have to take up the extra space inside to keep your folder (and documents) from slipping down inside the box.

Punch Studio Royal Peacock Expandable Accordion File

This is one of the most feminine accordion boxes I have ever seen.  It comes with interior dividers and labels.  Also available (but not included) are matching file folders if the thin dividers give way under use.

Safavid Storage Box

For something totally different and “old world” this accordion box is very unique.  It has many dividers and plenty of room for paperwork.  Stunning for a file box.

Good luck in your search for the right container for your estate planning documents, whether you choose a binder, portfolio or box.

 

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