This may be the most important part of the entire “getting stuff you care about” organized process- putting all the information together in one place so that a spouse, executor, sibling, child could access the information in the event of an emergency.
This is where I think we tend to overthink things or fail to take action because not every hole is filled in and not every question is answered. The rule of thumb here should be something is truly better than nothing. In fact, it’s better to come back to your “stuff you care about” every year and review because each time you do this, you will have more answers than the last time you did it.
In my process, there are two kinds of documents and information to manage: digital and physical
The kinds of information to store digitally are:
- Contact information for medical emergencies including doctors, financial advisors, estate attorneys, CPA’s, dependents, etc.
- Email accounts and what they are used for
- Personal devices such as laptops, cell phones and how to access
- An overview of property owned and where you keep deeds/titles
- List of storage facilities, home safes and what you keep in them
- List of active life insurance policies
- Health insurance information
- An overview of where you bank and location of any investments, 401ks, etc that are not rolled under your financial advisor *I do not recommend you list account numbers in this overview
- An outline of systems used for a business and how to access them (if a business owner) such as billing systems, client management systems, document management, etc.
- Pet information (Vet name, who should receive your pets upon your passing)
I cannot stress enough that if you are planning to store this type of information digitally, it should NOT be in a document or a note in your phone, it needs to be stored SECURELY on a system that is designed to store this kind of sensitive information. If you have not read this blog post on why I love Everplans and how it is a great system for storing important life information, you need to read it asap. What is so practical about Everplans is that your information is secure and private to you but you can name a “deputy” in the system who is someone that you trust and would need to receive the information in Everplans if something happens to you. When the time comes that your deputy needs to access your information (medical emergency or you’ve died), the deputy submits a request to Everplans and everything in Everplans is sent to them organized and ready for them to utilize.
The kinds of documents to store physically are:
- Wills, trusts, POA’s, advance directives (in a safe)
- Passports, birth certificates, social security cards (in safe)
- Marriage license
- House records (tax records, paint colors, appliance manuals, etc.)
- Car titles
- House deed
- Medical records (labs from doctors or notes from a visit)
- Insurance bills (car and house)
- Utility bills (just an sample to show account number)
Here are some products I use that help organize all my physical files and documents:
These bins are so practical and hold a lot of files! I use them for kids art, photos, and obviously important life documents!
These are the file organizers I used in the bins above. Easy to write on and comes in a huge pack that would take a long time to use up!
Simple and easy home safe that you can easily store documents, valuables, etc in.
Finally, this organization work is only useful if you actually tell your executor, spouse, adult child, etc. where this information lives and how you have organized it.
Don’t put all your hard work to waste! Once you have organized this information, have a quick conversation with that trusted person in your life on where everything lives and how they can access if there’s an emergency.
It also is wise to revisit this information yearly and make sure it is still up to date. Our lives are evolving every year, so give yourself an hour to quickly scan everything and update as needed.