By: Mary Shepherd, Partner Family Coordinator and Kim Kerr, Family Services Manager
There are many reasons you, or a loved one, may need to be able to get your hands on important documents. You may become incapacitated due to an accident or illness, you may have had your wallet stolen leaving you needing to replace documents you had in it, you may be ready to make a new purchase like a new home, or as was discussed last month, you may find yourself having to respond to a natural disaster. Whatever the reason, having these documents organized can make a stressful situation much easier.
The following documents should be included in a “family document kit” or a “bug out bag”.
- Birth and death certificatesAutomobile documents and titles
- Marriage licenses Credit Card documents
- Social Security cardsLoan documents
- Passports/Green CardsBanking records
- Wills and trustsInvestment documents
- Medical/health RecordsTax records (should be kept for 7 years)
- Real Estate DocumentsEducation records/Transcripts/Diplomas
- Insurance PoliciesEmployment records
- Veterinarian recordsWarranties
Gather the items and sort them by categories such as personal, financial and home. Items may be put in alphabetical order if you prefer. Personal items will be permanent and should include birth certificates, passports, medical records and social security cards. It may also be helpful to have a table of contents so that it will be easy to locate things you have gathered within your “kit”.
Place your items in a notebook or an accordion style folder. Once you have your kit in place, it would be best to keep your kit in a fireproof lockbox or a lockable filing cabinet. Banks have safety deposit boxes available for a fee. These are a secure option, but are accessible only to the holder; a court order is needed to retrieve contents of the box if the holder dies. Your “kit” should be in a place that is easily accessible though not easily seen by a home intruder. The idea of the kit is also to have it ready to grab if you have to “bug out”- thus the title “bug out bag”. Kits should be reviewed yearly to rotate information. Many people try to review this information around tax time to allow for rotation of the new and old tax returns. Remember to always shred personal documents to avoid personal information getting into the wrong hands.
Locating these items in an emergency is very stressful. Having these documents organized will be helpful in case of an emergency situation.