Avoid Surprise – Get Organized!
Think about your answers to the following questions: Where is your Last Will and Testament? How about your auto insurance policy? Last year’s tax return? For many of us, our answers are skewed more towards “I don’t know.” And while it’s likely that, if given time, you could unearth all of these financial documents, it is also likely that this quick exercise has uncovered an opportunity for you to better organize these important documents.
WHAT DOCUMENTS TO KEEP
Making sure your financial documents are organized and readily accessible can help reduce stress, simplify any financial requests, and ensure you are adequately prepared when you need to access any important documents. When it comes to the setup of your financial organization, we suggest being mindful of the following categories:
1. Personal Financial Management
- Credit card statements, student/personal loan statements, mortgage information, bank account statements
2. Investment Statements
- Brokerage account statements, retirement account statements, stock certificates
3. Estate Documents
- Wills, trusts, powers of attorney, advance medical directives
4. Legal Documents
- Birth certificates, social security cards, passports, marriage/divorce certificates
5. Home Documents
- Appraisal documents, deeds, renovation receipts, lists/photos/videos of home contents
6. Income Tax Information
- Tax returns, charitable gift documentation, property tax information
7. Medical Information
- Primary care physician contact information, medical specialist information, important medical documentation, insurance cards
8. Insurance Documents
- Original policies and recent statements for homeowner’s, auto, umbrella, life, disability, long-term care, etc.
While the collection process may require some initial investment of your time and test your organization skills, the peace of mind in quickly knowing where everything is located will pay dividends.
HOW LONG TO KEEP THEM
The second piece to organizing your financial documents has to do with how long you should keep them. If you kept every statement or piece of information for the categories we listed, you’d probably need to dedicate an entire room just to ensure there was enough space! A general recommendation is to keep all important information (what has been listed above) for seven years or until updated. After this point, it is no longer necessary for you to hold on to the documents; they may be safely destroyed. This means that it is also important to make a habit of revisiting your organized documents on a regular schedule. You can use specific yearly events like tax preparation time, the start of daylight savings, or the start of the new year to trigger your reminder to review the information.
WHO TO TELL
The last step is to inform someone else as to where these documents are kept. This is a crucial step in case of an emergency, someone other than yourself may need to access the information. If they can’t find it, all your hard work and meticulous record keeping will be wasted!
As always, the Yeske Buie team is available to help, whether that means helping you think comprehensively about all of your financial documents, keeping an extra copy of your documents on file for safekeeping, or reminding you to update your documents regularly. Don’t hesitate to contact us if we can be of assistance.