In the daily scurry of life it’s easy to overlook a step that is vital to long-term family survival – organizing important records.
A major disaster, or a family member’s death, can create havoc for the family if important documents were not created and then duplicated in another location.
Those who have had to assist a family following the death of the person who was the family record-keeper know the difficulty of finding essential information. Sometimes it is not possible to reconstruct key records after that death. There may be funds on deposit in places now forgotten, a paid-up insurance policy misfiled, or other items not listed in accessible records.
In the aftermath of any major disaster essential records that were in a just-destroyed home or business may be irretrievably lost, resulting in a horrible family nightmare; i.e., insurance claims, disaster assistance, even physical access to the area denied for lack of essential records.
Here is a list of items, documents, and information to keep in accessible places: (1) in your house; (2) copy in safe deposit box; (3) copy in a remote location. It’s a protection that is used in business; that is, put copies of essential records in places remotely located from their main site. While this may sound like a chore, it really isn’t. The benefit you gain is an overview of your current situation, and a list of where key records are filed. Review this every five years as it can be surprising how family and personal information can change.
- Social Security Card
- Birth Certificates
- Marriage and Death Records
- Credit Cards
- Insurance policies on house, auto, liability, health, etc.
- Recent Tax Returns
- Mortgage or Real Estate Loan identification and evidence of recent payments, or statement of recent year-end balance
- Deeds to real estate currently owned AND copies of tax records on previously owned real estate that affects the basis in the currently owned property
- Records of improvements to real property (new barn, added room)
- Information on owned stocks and bonds, certificates of deposit, treasury bills, and other investments, including account #’s.
- Bank, Savings and Loan, and Credit Union records
- Photo, video (and/or longhand) inventory of cars, home, household goods
- Drivers License (evidence you live in an area as well as license)
- Will or Trust documents
- Passports if relative
- Military discharge documents if relative
- Ownership certificates for trailers, boats, vehicles, etc.
- Recent photos of family members and friends – serves to aid in identification in case of separation, need to identify
- List of addresses and phone numbers (CURRENT!) organized in a readily accessible pocket guide (alphabetic telephone record)
- Small amounts of cash, extra checks or where they are located
- Watch, camera, and film with a list of where essential inventories are filed (such as film/video inventories as well as longhand.)
- Instructions to family as to where to contact each other in a major disruption of services in your community.
You’ll think of other items. Although you may never need this, it is better to have that occur than to need it and not have it. Then, too, you do your family a distinct honor when you assemble this data and let them know about it and where copies are located.