What to Keep and Where
There are many documents that a person needs to keep for themselves and their family. Do you need a safe deposit box at your bank or credit union? It’s optional, however, you need to have a place in your home that you keep your very important records. This box should be lockable, sealable, and fireproof.
Records for Safe Keeping
As a general rule your record storage box should store any records that is difficult, costly, or impossible to replace. These include (but are not limited to) original Social Security cards; adoption, birth, death, and marriage certificates; military papers; copy of household inventory; will and trust documents; list of the location of your important papers; passports; and titles to property (land, house, vehicle, etc.).
Current Financial Records
You will need a place to keep monthly statements, bills, receipts, and notes of non-receipt cash payments (such as for vending machine purchases). A small file folder system works for many people. Some regularly write expenses in a home account book or enter them in a computer system. Having a separate file for tax return documentation (taxable income, expenses for itemized deductions, etc.) can “pay off” when it is time to prepare your tax returns.
To keep your current financial files “current,” clean them out each year. Tax time is a convenient time to do this. Move important papers to your permanent filing system. As you sort items for tax reporting, discard what you no longer need. Transfer items you might need in the future to your permanent files. Items such as tax returns and bank statements are an example.
If convenient filing space is limited, consider how often you refer to particular files. Active files include records used at least yearly, or records you may need to review without much notice such as checking the number on an insurance policy. Keep them relatively handy. On the other hand, inactive files containing permanent or long- term items can be stored in a dry, out-of-the-way place in the home and/or in your fireproof safe.
A very important task to do is to keep an up-to-date household inventory or systematic list of all of your household possessions. Check with your insurance agent or broker for company requirements of proof of purchase and/or ownership of personal property items. In some cases, receipted bills or sales slips are required; in other cases, a written inventory and/or photographs are adequate documentation. Making a video of your possessions in the home, works as well. Tip: Describe items as you video, lay receipts by jewelry and other items of value. Include clothes, closets, garage and shed.
Organizing all of these documents, receipts, warranties, and other records may seem like a real chore to you right now. It will take time to gather everything together. But just think how much easier it will be to do it at a leisurely pace now, instead of in a panic during a crisis. A time may come when other family members will need to manage things for you. Having all the necessary papers available for them will be a great help and will avoid potential problems. You might assemble these in a notebook that you update once or twice each year. Be sure to tell key family members the notebook’s location so they can act in your behalf if there is an emergency. Take the time right now to help yourself, your family, and others by taking charge and getting all of your important papers in order. You’ll be glad you did! And, you will certainly feel a sense of accomplishment when the job is completed.
You can download a guide for organizing your family records here. Guide for Family Records