Finance & Career
The coronavirus (COVID-19) is bringing the new reality of social distancing to us all. Social distancing leaves everyone with more time on his or her hands than usual. We ask ourselves, What do we do? Well, no time like the present to be productive and use this time to prepare for the unexpected.
Organizing important records and papers is a task that is always dreaded, mainly for the lack of time to get it done. The unexpected time now will not be available when emergencies arise. In those times of emergencies, having easy access to important records and papers is important.
What are the benefits of organizing important records and papers?
- Easy accessibility.
- Proof of transactions.
- Availability to assist personal representative of your estate.
- Awareness of documentation needed to complete records and legal papers.
- Peace of mind
The biggest obstacle to overcome is getting started. As with anything, remember to take things a little at a time. Start by going through your current mail as it arrives. You have time later to go back and look through the backlog.
Designate a comfortable work area. Have good lighting and needed supplies within reach. Keep a trash can handy to dispose of unwanted and unnecessary papers and junk mail.
Then make a plan. Set aside a regular time, perhaps weekly, when you can maintain your organization process. Once this plan is in place, stick to it. Complete your inventory, update it annually, and locate any missing items.
Following is a list of items to locate and include in your organization process.
Personal Family Records
- Insurance policies
- Health records
- Education records
- Employment records
- Licenses to practice
- Property deeds
- Motor vehicle records
- Equipment warranties, guarantees, and instruction books
- Records of your home purchase and improvements
- Real estate records
- Burial plots
- Time-share information
- Property improvement records
- Earnings records
- Account records from financial institutions
- Credit and debit card information
- Personal tax returns
- Retirement benefits
- Notes and money owed
- Credit records
- Pension or retirement information
- Contracts and debts
- Tax information
- Birth and death certificates
- Adoption papers
- Marriage records
- Divorce decree
- Military records
- Social Security card
- Current estate planning information
- Advance directives for health care
- Living will
- Durable power of attorney
Now that you have gathered all of your important documents, you have a good idea of what you are missing. This is a time to request those lost, stolen, or destroyed papers before you need them.
Contact information for government offices that can help you get started:
- Citizenship and naturalization documents: https://www.uscis.gov/n-565
- Marriage licenses, divorce and adoption decrees, birth and death certificates: http://www.vitalrec.com/usmap.html
- Federal income tax returns: http://www.irs.gov/uac/Contact-Your-Local-IRS-Office-1
- Military discharge papers: http://www.archives.gov/veterans/military-service-records/standard-form-180.html
- Social Security card: https://www.ssa.gov/ or https://faq.ssa.gov/en-US/Topic/article/KA-02017
Don’t not let your valuable time go to waste. Make use of your downtime by preparing for the future.