February is the month to organize your important documents. The goal is to have all important information quickly accessible in an emergency or in the event of serious illness or death.
We recommend that you create a binder with copies of all of your important documents. A binder that zips all the way around or small briefcase might do a great job of securely organizing the documents. Place copies in top loading plastic sheet protectors to help with organization. Self-adhesive CD pockets are great for storing electronic copies of records on CDs or DVDs as well as to keep spare keys in.
Take great care to protect these documents from thieves. Label the binder something boring like “grandma’s recipes” or “report cards.” Store the originals in a safe, keep one copy at your home and another copy in a secure location away from home in case your home is destroyed.
Copies of documents you may want to consider include:
- Personal documentation – degrees, professional licenses, driver’s license, passport, birth certificate, marriage certificate, medical records, immunization records, concealed carry permit, social security card, military documents
- Insurance policies – life, health, property, auto, homeowners
- Property – deeds, car titles
- Legal – contracts, adoption, custody, or divorce papers, will, living trust or family trust, power of attorney, rent or lease agreement
- Financial – savings bonds, stocks and bonds, statements from investment firms, banking information, credit cards, retirement/pension
- Contact information — all companies with which you do any business (banks, creditors, attorney, physician, pharmacy, etc.)
- Family emergency plan – include written list of contact information for friends and family
- Electronic copy — family photos, critical computer files, and insurance video documentation
- Keys — safety deposit box, safe, bug out location, vehicles, etc.
- Recent photo — each family member and pet
- List of firearms — including serial numbers
- List of critical passwords or lock combinations (coded if necessary)
You may find other documents that would be helpful to have in this collection, or you may only need to include some of these. The purpose is to enable you to have all important documents in the event your house is completely destroyed. Having these documents readily available will make it much easier to put the pieces back together again quickly and completely.
Prepare 2015 – February Homework
Spend $20 – Purchase a quality zip binder or portable organizer to organize your important documents in. Make copies of important documents, keys, and other critical items.
15 minutes – Make a video inventory of all of your possessions for insurance purposes. Do a video walk through of your home, garage and property making sure to capture brand names, serial numbers, and describe possessions while recording. Record anything of value including art, jewelry, collections, firearms, etc. Remember to document inside cupboards, closets, and drawers. Make a copy of this recording and keep it in a secure location away from your home. If you are unable to prove what you have, the insurance company may not pay.
Need a little help?
If you need a little hand holding when it comes to gathering your documents, you may want to purchase Essential Document Grab ‘N Go Organizer by Mary Rowbury. The book contains fill-in-the-blank forms to make sure you don’t miss anything important.
Gathering this information takes a lot of time. Get your binder, sheet protectors, CD sleeves set up this month. Once that is in place, it is easy to put the rest together as you come across important documents. You may not get it all done in February, but you will be well on your way.
Use that 15 minute time allotment to get out the video camera and record your possessions. Don’t worry about cleaning or organizing before you make the recording. Just get the camera out and go through every room. Put a copy of it in your emergency binder.
You can do this!