Every region of the United States seems to contend with natural disasters of one type or another. As individuals, we each have the freedom to choose where we live, and consequently, which natural disasters we may have to tolerate.
The destructive force of a hurricane, tornado, flood, forest fire or earthquake often results in the loss of property and sometimes even the loss of life. Adding insult to injury, the damage from such events too often includes the preventable loss of important personal and financial records.
Vital documents, such as wills, marriage certificates, social security cards, medical records, credit cards, insurance policies, tax returns and passports are often unrecoverable after such disasters. In the absence of appropriate planning, individuals face the added stress of reconstructing these lost records at an emotionally difficult time. Their reconstruction may also be necessary to accomplish important tasks, such as the filing of an insurance claim, the ability to receive medical treatment, obtain entitlement benefits, or take a planned vacation.
Compiling and securing vital documents can provide more than basic peace of mind; the process may also offer an opportunity to review the status, accuracy and adequacy of personal financial records. Taking a simple inventory of relevant documents can begin the process. A well-planned collection of such documents is sometimes referred to as a Personal Record Organizer (“PRO”). It centralizes important personal records in one physical location, for ease of reference and mobility.
The PRO not only provides the structure for individuals to cope with the aftermath of a disaster, but may also serve as a springboard for future financial planning decisions. Here is how to get started.
Setting-up a Personal Record Organizer
The Personal Record Organizer (“PRO”) is easy to create and maintain. Gather together and/or copy the listed documents. If you need help, feel free to ask your Investacorp financial advisor to assist you in this process.
Many of the documents referenced below will be important papers and records that should be maintained in a safety deposit box, or fireproof lockbox (e.g. original or certified copies of birth certificates, marriage licenses, social security cards, passports, insurance policies, wills, trust documents, etc.). The location of original documents should be noted next to each copied item.
The format of the PRO can be as simple as a three-ring-binder that holds all the original or copied documents. Alternatively, the documents can be transferred to a CD or other electronic media for more efficient storage, backup and transport. Duplicate copies of the PRO should be made for safekeeping. You may wish to keep the original PRO at home and provide a loved one and/or your attorney with a duplicate.
Components of a Personal Record Organizer
- PERSONAL AND FAMILY RECORDS:
Social Security cards
Military record and veterans papers
Copy of drivers license
Copy of legal name changes
Copy of medical insurance card
Copy of personal credit cards
Employment information and benefits
Location of safety deposit box
Family photographs, videos, and heirlooms
Books, diaries, children’s mementos and records
Any other important family items
Medical/Health care records
Phone numbers of doctors and pharmacists
Summary of medical conditions, past illnesses, operations, medications, allergies
Medical expense records
Medical insurance coverage records (Health, Disability, Long Term Care, etc.)
Employment / Business Related Medical Benefits
Medicare / Medicaid Information
Brokerage and/or bank statements
Brokerage, mutual funds, IRA, 401k
Bank statements, CDs, money market
Insurance related statements and policies (Term, Annuities, Whole Life, etc.)
Listing of all financial statements and policies (Term, Annuities, Whole Life, etc.)
Financial planning records (budget/cash flow calculations, net worth calculations, list of assets and liabilities, list of all investments along with cost basis)
Tax return information (W2, 1099s, details of all income and expense/deduction sources)
Retirement plan documents, including beneficiary information
Real estate investment information, including contracts, deeds and rental agreements
Mortgages, loans & liabilities (mortgage documents, auto loans, educational loans, etc.)
Credit card Information (list of all credit cards and account numbers, copy of each card)
Social Security benefit records and earnings history
Charitable, philanthropic records
Business or partnership documents
- ESTATE PLANNING / INSURANCE / LEGAL:
Insurance policies, including a summary of the policy; policy numbers and contact phone numbers
Wills and trust instruments
Health care proxy
Power of attorney
Divorce papers, including alimony and child support documents
Litigation records and/or settlements
Deeds and titles (primary home, investment properties, autos, boats, planes, campers, etc.)
Real estate Information, including home improvement records, construction contracts, repair records, survey, appraisal information
Automobile records (auto loan or lease docs, repair records, extended warranty papers)
Inventory of Personal Property (household items, paintings, jewelry, family treasures, and the locations of each important item)
Important Warranties (home, auto, appliances, computer, electronics)
- INSTRUCTIONS UPON DEATH, DISASTER OR INCAPACITY:
General Letters of Instruction (instruction on what friends and/or professionals to contact, funeral/cremation arrangements, name and number of executor, persons to notify in the event of death, explanation of life insurance policies or corporate death benefits)
List of Advisors (include contact information for your attorney, accountant, insurance agent, broker, banker, trust officer, religious leader, etc.)
Contact information for all contractors that provide ongoing services, such as: home security systems, pest control, yard maintenance, and so forth.
Contact information for family and friends
Power of attorney, wills, trust documents
Instructions for executor
Letter(s) to loved ones
Consider making a Master List of all documents contained within the PRO, as well as a record of the physical location for each original document (i.e. safe-deposit box, fireproof box, attorney’s office, PRO, etc.)