How To Organize Life’s Most Important Documents
A few years ago my husband and I decided it was finally time to organize our most important documents. Getting the documents organized does not have to be an overwhelming task once you have all of them together in one place. The hard part is estate planning and finding all of the information you or your loved ones may need.
You can follow the steps we took to organize important documents to get your papers in order.
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Step #1 to Organize Important Documents: Find them all!
Head over to our Checklist of Life’s Most Important Documents to get a complete list of everything you may need to find before you get started. We have this list available as a FREE pdf printable in our Surviving the Next Phase: 10 Resources for Financing, Organizing, and Parenting in the Next Phase ebook on our Resources page.
Step #2 to Organize Important Documents: Choose a Method
There are several ways to organize important documents. Not every document needs to be in the same organizational system. Some things can be in a binder while others can be in file folders.
Methods to organize important documents:
- Plastic bin with file folders
- Home filing cabinet
- Document safe
- On a computer and/or a flash drive
You will also need to consider where you will store your binder or files once they are organized. They need to be kept in a place that will survive a fire or other destructive event. An insurance adjuster friend explained to me that most of the damage caused in a fire is actually from the water used to fight the fire. So, consider not only fire, but also water, whether from a weather event or a firefighter’s hose.
Where to store important documents:
- In home safe
- Safe deposit box at the bank (although you will need a BIG one and need to make sure your relatives can access it)
- At the home of your estate executor
- At your attorney’s office
My husband have our documents at our home in a fire proof safe. Our estate executor and our attorney both have copies of our wills and estate documents.
Step #3 to Organize Important Documents: Get Started
Here are some supplies to consider if you want to make a binder:
- 3 -Inch Binder -when you are finished, you will need this bigger size!
- Page Protectors -this will protect your copies and originals from handling.
- Dividers -one for each section, and you might want to sub-divide some sections
- Binder Pouch -this will hold small items like a pen and pencil, gift cards, safety deposit key, flash drive, etc
- Get your printable of Life’s Most Important Documents in the 10 Resources for Surviving the Next Phase
Or you can scan all your life’s most important documents into a Flash Drive. You can do this on your phone or into your laptop. If they are synced, then all the better. Just be sure that you are always locking your screen and that the document is password protected!
We sometimes think if we can’t make it Pinterest pretty, we don’t even want to do the project. Your organizational system does not have to be pretty!!! The most important thing in getting your documents organized is to organize your documents and have them in a safe place where they can be accessed if needed.
Our Estate Planning binder. It is pretty because the attorney made it. There is a flash drive inside the notebook with all of the information as well.
The files my husband created to organize important documents like car titles and other records. They are stored in a fire proof safe. The file folders are labeled in his handwriting. Your folders do not have to be pretty to work!
Steps #4 to Organize Important Documents: Use Resources to Help You
Be sure to let your family know WHERE your documents are. We have an Important Records Spreadsheet you can use to list your documents and where they are located. It is a Google Sheet that can be shared with your loved ones. They will always have the most up-to-date information.
Here are two possible complete Organize Important Documents Resources to help you get the job done. The Nokbox is a complete system – storage box and all. Get It Together is a workbook you can use. There are downloadable pdfs and even tabs and
The Nokbox -(NOK=next of kin) Their motto is “Don’t add a headache to their heartache!” The Nokbox is a complete system that helps you organize all of your accounts, possessions, social media presence, communities, kids, pets, personal history, and estate plans (even if you don’t have estate plans yet!). The Nokbox covers every aspect of your life (even down to the organization of your keys) and also helps your NOK manage your estate when you are gone with checklists and tips. It will save priceless hours for both you and your NOK.
This book is a complete workbook for putting together all of your paperwork, important documents, and final wishes. It even includes downloadable pdf forms and information about powers of attorney, funeral planning, trusts, executors, and more.
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