It’s over a month now that I’ve been staying at home. How about you? Are you bored yet? Well, this is a wonderful time to take care of some of those projects on your “maybe, someday, I should really do this” list. Here’s one suggestion: Create or update your Vital Documents file.
What is a Vital Documents file? Simply a file folder or other container that holds important documents that will be needed when you die and if you become incapacitated, and sometimes just for everyday life. Don’t worry about getting them all together in one day. Just take it a step at a time, maybe spending an hour a day, starting with the easy ones and go from there. Your family and heirs will thank you!
Here is my suggested list grouped by category. Just cross off each item as you accumulate them. Start by crossing off those that don’t apply—isn’t it a good feeling to cross things off a list!
- Your Will, Advance Medical Directive, General Durable Power of Attorney
- Marriage certificate; divorce papers
- Birth certificates, adoption papers, custody papers, death certificates
- Social security card, ID cards, citizenship/naturalization papers
- Trust documents
- Any other legal papers such as proof of benefits or disability documentation
- List and contact information for the key legal people in your life (attorney, executor of your will)
- List of minor children and others who depend on you; care directives
- A personal letter to each of your loved ones, a letter of last instructions concerning cemetery and funeral preferences, and a list of personal effects to be given to specific people
- Facts for funeral director (full name, date of birth, place of birth, spouse name, parents name, children’s names). Some people draft their own obituary!
- Passport and Global Entry card
- Copy of your driver’s license, health insurance ID cards, credit cards (easiest way is to make a copy of the front and back of each. If you have a printer with a flatbed copier, you can do eight at a time).
- Inventory of (with copies of documents if appropriate) of contents of your bank safe deposit box. Include bank branch location and box number, location of keys, name(s) are on the access list. Note: Never keep your original will or your passport in the bank safe deposit box. When you die, the original of your will should be easily accessible. If you must travel overseas on the spur of the moment, your bank might be closed, and you will not have access to your passport
- Diplomas/transcripts, certifications
- Military documents
- List and contact information for the key personal people in your life (family, close friends, employer and close colleagues/business associates, neighbors or others with keys, spiritual advisor)
- Passwords and login name for computer, smartphone, email, social media, and online sites someone will need to access if something happens to you
- Current health summary, including any issues and what care is needed; also list of current prescriptions and supplements you take, along with dosage information (date this document, and update as needed).
- List and contact information for the key medical people in your life (doctors, dentist, preferred hospital).
- Organ donation
- Pension; Annuity
- Insurance information and policies: Long-term care insurance, life (including name(s) of beneficiaries), health, auto, homeowners, umbrella liability, mortgage insurance and any other insurance
- List of financial assets and liabilities, along with account numbers, such as bank and investment accounts (including 529 accounts, CDs, IRAs and other retirement accounts; beneficiaries of retirement accounts); individual stocks, bonds, savings bonds – anything not in an investment account; loans to others
- List of financial liabilities, such as mortgage, car loan, education loans, any other loans, including to individuals, credit cards, including account numbers
- List of income and expenses that are automatically deposited into or debited from your accounts. Include information such as when, how often, amount, which account
- Software or online service where you’ve recorded income and expenses such as Quicken or QuickBooks; how to access, including user ID and password
- TurboTax or other software/online service where you’ve prepared tax returns, and how to access, including user ID and password
- Memberships, including dues amount and when due
- Location of income tax returns and backup documents
- Location of income and expense records for current year including bank and credit card statements
- List and contact information for the key financial people in your life (accountant/tax preparer, financial planner, insurance agent)
- Real estate property deed; plat; floor plan
- List of home improvements (may come in handy when you sell to avoid or lower tax on sale)
- Location of purchase and refinance settlement sheets plus home improvement records
- List of home improvements with date and dollar amount
- Lease if renting and landlord contact information
- List and contact information for the key house-related people in your life (service providers, neighbors, or others with keys)
- List of service contracts with contact information
- Pets (veterinarian contact info; record of vaccines; pet care directives)
- Car title, also that of boat, camper, etc.
- Outside storage unit, location name and contact info, unit number, how to access, brief description of contents
- Frequent flyer miles, account numbers and approximate balance
- Important warranties and receipts
- Business interests – if you own all or a part of a company
- Home inventory – but this one is for another day. I’ll write about that another time
You can order kits or find resources online to guide you and make it easier. Here are two:
– https://myorganized.life/products/life-documents-organizer-kit (file folders listing contents)
– https://www.nolo.com/ Get it Together book with blank forms and access to online forms.
Feel free to share this list. If you have suggestions to add to the list, please email them to me at Susan@BalancedSpaces.com.
© 2020 Susan Kousek