Thursday, January 2, 2014

Organizing Your (Important) Papers

It is the season for making resolutions and planning for the year ahead.  Make one of this month's tasks organizing your important papers.  And no I do not mean that "compost pile" at the end of your desk that you hope someday will become irrelevant so you can just toss them out.  Well those probably need some attention too.
This photo was taken of my desk.
What I really mean is getting a handle on your important papers.  When having this conversation with my estate planning clients, I usually define important papers as those papers which are impossible or very difficult to replace if destroyed, lost, or stolen.  These are things like birth certificates, passports, divorce decrees, social security cards, death certificates, military discharge papers, car titles, real estate abstracts, life insurance policies, stock certificates, wills, powers of attorney, trusts, health care directives, and so forth.

I am still shocked at how many of my clients carry their social security card with them.  This is a big NO-NO. Memorize your number and lock that card up.  Do not let it sit around in your wallet along with your name, address, and birth date.  That is just an open invitation for identity theft.

Instead take all these important and hard or impossible to replace papers and put them in a fire safe.  Fire safes are readily available at nearly every hardware store and office supply.  You want something that is actually fire rated for a specified period of time. And you also want something you can bolt to the wall or floor in such a manner that getting it detached without access to the interior of the safe is nearly impossible. I am not an expert on fire safes so I will not give an opinion about what type, brand, or fire rating it should have.  But you want something that will protect your papers should there be a fire in your home.

My clients also often ask me about bank safe deposit boxes.  Personally I am not a big fan. Banks seem to be closed when we have an emergency making it impossible to get into the box until the next business day.

Also people rarely tell their children that they have a safe deposit box much less the physical address of the box.  So if something traumatic happens, the children are left with a key to an undefined box.  In my experience, safe deposit box keys do not list the name of the bank, the bank address, or often even the box number making it very difficult at times to know where to look for the box.

The bank vault is a great place for your jewels and gold bars.  In many cases, a fire safe at home is the best place for your important papers.

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(And for anyone who might ask, NO this is NOT legal advice... even though I am a lawyer.  This is common sense advice.)

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  1. Replies
    1. Hi Billie. Thanks for stopping by. I know this post isn't typical fare for this blog but it is typical for a day at work for me. Something everyone needs to know.

  2. Great info, thanks so much for sharing! So nice to have you be a part of AMAZE ME MONDAY!

  3. I need to follow your directions. Something that I continually postpone. Thanks for the motivation. Stopping by from Tuesdays with a Twist.
    Easy Life Meal & Party Planning

  4. YES! Really good information! Thanks for stopping by Wonderful Wednesday blog hop. I pinned you post!
    Diane Roark

    1. Hi Diane. Thank you for the pin! And thanks for stopping by again!

  5. Good reminder.... we need to update our important papers box!
    Thanks for linking up to Hit Me With Your Best Shot! Hope to see you next week!

  6. Your blog has such important information that everyone should follow. Thank you for sharing with the Clever Chicks Blog Hop! I hope you’ll join us again next week!

    Kathy Shea Mormino
    The Chicken Chick

    1. Thank you Kathy. I appreciate the lawyer to lawyer compliment!

  7. Great tips. Thank you so much for helping to make the Thursday Favorite Things blog hop so much fun Hugs!

  8. This is such good advice...I confess I leave important paper organizing to my CPA husband...I am kind of a mess...thanks for participating in our blog hop!

  9. i really need
    to get on top of this

    our old firesafe is too small
    and we need another

    thanks for the reminder

    i would love for you to share
    at Fridays Unfolded this week!


  10. Thank you for sharing these tips at Motivation Monday. Your post reminded me that I need to update my master financial information document, put a copy in our safe, and change passwords.

  11. Great advice! I've also considered getting a safety deposit box, but I was concerned that no one would be able to find it should an emergency happen. A few weeks ago, I bucked down and got a fire safe and put all my documents together. I think I was prompted by something I watched on the news, but I felt the desire to get it all done. I just learned a few things from you, though, and now I have to get more in order!

    Thanks so much for sharing on Turn It Up Tuesday! We love having you! :)

    1. Natasha it also makes it so much easier for your family if you are not able to tell them where to find things do to illness or, heaven forbid, something worse. Thanks for stopping by!

  12. Thanks for very sound advice, Widgy Cat. You’ll never know when catastrophe will happen, so everyone must always be prepared. These are hard-to-earn or almost irreplaceable documents that we are the talking about, so they must be managed and stored with utmost care and safety. I hope more people out there will follow through with your good advice. Ruby @

  13. Wonderful and timely tips! I do appreciate you sharing with Home and Garden Thursday,

  14. This is great advice! All too often we let these papers get misplaced or go by the wayside. It really sucks when you need one of these documents and its nowhere to be found. Very useful and helpful tips!

    Thanks for linking up at Gingham & Roses!
    Hope to see you back next week!

    Tenns @ New Mama Diaries


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