Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Taking Control Means Getting Organized

Grams has now spent the last two days cleaning out our four-drawer file cabinet. It has not been cleaned out in many years ... actually, it's never been cleaned out since we bought it quite a few years ago. Just to make that point, I'll admit that among the things I found in it were our tax returns from the 1980s along with a lot, and I do mean a lot, of bank statements.

The end result was four 33-gallon trash bags of shredded paper, a dead shredder (may it rest in peace), and a stack of papers that need to be organized and put back into the file in some kind of meaningful order.

Besides my personal need to take control, a big part of the reason Grams decided to undertake this purging process is so that, when Grandad and I pass into the great beyond, our kids won't have to deal with as big a mess as we had to when our parents passed.  To that end, I spent the morning perusing web sites that offer advice about what families need to know when a loved one passes and how to organize personal files.

There are a great many internet resources about this subject. Some of them are free and some of them are kind of pricey. The most thorough guide I found was from the Career Transition Center of the U.S. Department of State. It's 46 pages long and can be downloaded in an Adobe Acrobat file. If you're interested, you can find it here. But that was a little bit more detailed than I needed. I pulled information from about a dozen web sites and have compiled this list that I'm going to use for creating my files. I suspect that it will evolve as I actually set it up, but these are my starting categories and what will go in each one.
  • Personal Data (one file for each family member) to include birth certificate, Social Security Card, copy of driver's license, and passport.
  • Medical Records (one file for each family member) including a copy of health insurance cards, contact information for each doctor, allergy information, and medical records.
  • Life Insurance including location of policies, amounts of coverage, and contact information for all agents.
  • Academic Records including transcripts, diplomas, financial aid/student loan information.
  • Tax Returns for 3 years including all supporting documents
  • Automobiles including titles (originals and copies), automobile insurance, registrations, spare keys, and contact information for insurance agent.
  • Home including location of deed, mortgage, location of homeowner’s insurance policy, claims information, contact information for insurance agent, floor plan, breaker schematic, pest control records, etc.
  • Financial including the location and account numbers for all accounts, passwords, specifics of each account (joint or individual), and contact information for investment accounts.
  • Bills/Credit Cards/Loans with copies of most recent bills/statements.
  • Warranty Information with receipts, warranties, and owners manuals on all major purchases.
Hopefully Grams will finally be able to get a handle on our personal record-keeping.  I will update you as this project moves along.

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