Saturday, September 28, 2013

Getting Your Important Documents in Order

A big part of being prepared has to do with being able to get your hands on important documents when you need them.  If your SO dies, if your house ends up underwater (literally), if you end up on life support, if you need to exit the country quickly...the number of "what ifs" is long but the short answer to these problems is to have the documents you need, when you need them.

First, here are the documents you need:

  • Your Will
  • Your Living Will
  • Your medical power of attorney
  • Birth certificates/baptism records (of all family members)
  • Death certificates (for any family members)
  • Citizenship/immigration papers
  • Your marriage certificate
  • Final disposition on any legal cases (divorce decrees, bankruptcy filings, adoptions, criminal cases, civil cases, etc)
  • Passports (for all family members)
  • Insurance documents (home, life, health, auto)
  • Education records/professional licenses
  • Military service records
  • Property titles (for cars, boats, homes, etc)
  • Investment and pension records (bearer bonds, stock certificates, 401k, pension plans, etc)
  • Household inventory
  • Medical records/current prescription records/immunization records
  • Driver's license, social security card, concealed carry license
  • Financial records (bank info, credit card info, prior years' tax returns, private loan documentation, etc)
  • Proof of ownership (patents, copyrights, burial lots, etc)
  • "Lost kit" for each family member (include recent photos, photos of identifying marks, fingerprints, DNA sample, height/weight/eye color/hair color)

Then, you need to scan all of these items into your computer:

  • Scan copies of these items into a password protected file on your computer
  • Buy or borrow a scanner (you can use one at the library but you probably don't want all of your sensitive documents laying about where others can see them)

Then you need to back up these files which reside on your computer:

  • Some people swear by backing up things to the cloud; I don't recommend this
  • Back up all of these files to a secure thumb drive then put this thumb drive in a secure place
  • Or you can back up these files to an external hard drive (which, of course, will need to be kept in a secure location)

Then you need to place these documents where they are secure and where you can access them quickly if needed (note all of these locations have positive and negative attributes):

  • A waterproof, fireproof, hidden home safe
  • A private vault
  • A safe deposit box
  • A secure, hidden cache

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