Financial Record Digitization Services - do they exist?
February 26, 2015 3:12 PM   Subscribe

I'm looking for a service like Shoeboxed or MakeSpace, where I can get several decade's worth of my parents' financial records scanned/indexed and then sent back to me to go into a regular storage unit. Extra snowflake information about sibling's information security paranoia.

My father passed away several years ago and my mom (who has a hard time with letting go of stuff or just getting organized) has finally decided that she wants to move all of the financial records out of the house into storage. He kept track of everything and the paperwork probably covers 30-40 years' worth of finances.

The Good News - Mom rented a storage facility to move these files.

The Bad news - her financial planner has advised that she get these items scanned/indexed so that they can easily access records if needed.

Additional Bad news is that one of my siblings (who is the oldest and super over conscientious estate executor) has declared that "we can just get a scanner." In their mind, we can just scan the stuff and save it to a flash drive - said sibling has a Ron Swanson level of paranoia about storing any information on hard drive or online. Besides not wanting to spend my scarce free time scanning old financial documents, I've done enough OCR/digital indexing projects when I worked as an archivist to know how complicated a task this is. Just because you scan something doesn't mean you can find what you're looking for (okay OCR to full text, but we're talking about Financial Institutions and specific dates for the indexing)

My mother has agreed to let me do an end run, where I'd find a service to scan/index her files and we'd send them off in boxes with the understanding that we get them back and then put them into storage. Does this type of service exist? Ideally I'd like something like Shoeboxed where I could send them my files in boxes. Or MakeSpace except they'd be taking digital images and do a container list for each page sent to storage.
posted by gov_moonbeam to Work & Money (4 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
We use Iron Mountain for this, and they can dispose of the files in a variety of ways: store them securely, return them to you, or destroy them entirely.

I'd go with the last option myself, even if it pissed off my mom and my older brother, there's no real cause to keep that sort of stuff forever.
posted by Oktober at 3:17 PM on February 26, 2015 [2 favorites]

Do you really need to keep anything (other than title deeds, etc) beyond legal retention limits?
posted by scruss at 5:14 PM on February 26, 2015 [5 favorites]

Certified Financial Planner here. Maybe 5% of these documents are worth holding onto. Old electric bills, receipts and warranties for old appliances. Toss 'em. Banks and other financial institutions have limitations on how long they entertain error or fraud claims. As you know, building and maintaining an archive of this stuff has costs in time, money, and difficulty in finding the important stuff. The first step is to edit.

Here is the IRS telling you that you only need to hold on to tax related records for 2-7 years, depending on your situation. Nobody is scarier than the IRS, and few institutions have a longer memory. Just about everything older than about 10 years is too old to bother with. The exception are the legal documents pertaining to real estate transactions, and employment documentation relating to pension or benefits due. If your mother is still collecting any sort of pension or has health benefits through your father's former employer(s), hold onto original documents describing these obligations. Employers "lose" this stuff often, particularly if your father had any sort of special arrangement that was not given to other employees. I remember one situation where an employer claimed a payment to an employee was a bonus, and thus not part of pensionable income. The employee had saved years of paystubs showing that the payment was in fact part of his regular income, and thus the employer was forced to pay a larger pension. But these situations are exceedingly rare, and timeliness of claims matter.

The caveat here is if there if you or your planner can identify a potential for litigation. A divorce, or some sort of family law issue. Inappropriate access to the funds in the estate. Or as stated above, workplace pension, benefits, or real estate issues.

Once you edit well, you'll be down to a fraction of what you had before and a scanner, safe or safety deposit box might be all you need.

Also: 30-40 years of stuff? Perhaps there's an element of hoarding behavior here.
posted by thenormshow at 6:51 PM on February 26, 2015 [3 favorites]

The only thing you need to save forever are deeds and paperwork dealing with real estate. You only need to save 7 years of receipts proving deductions, in case you get audited by the IRS.

You can trash the rest. There is NO reason to save cancelled checks from the Carter administration. There is no conceivable reason to do so. None whatsoever. Old utility bills, credit card statements, etc...trash it all. Nearly everything you would ever need is on-line in PDF directly from the source.

Let's use some common sense here about this. Paying to store useless records is madness.
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 5:37 AM on February 27, 2015 [2 favorites]

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