Recently it occurred to us that if there was an emergency, we probably couldn’t quickly put our hands on our most important papers, let alone know exactly where to find them under stress. Not a good prospect. Imagine if all of a sudden you or your spouse were to fall ill – or worse. Could they or you, perhaps a family member or your executor, find everything they would need to take care of things?
With that in mind, we decided to get better organised. That meant creating a special file for all our legal, personal, and financial certificates and papers: copies of our wills, powers of attorney, passports, birth certificates, proof of citizenship, proof of marriage and a long-ago divorce, insurance documents, real estate ownership/deeds, bank account numbers and locations, business information and so on.
We came up with several categories to help us file specific items together and now feel confident with the results. We’d like to share how we set up our system which may or may not be exactly what you need but will certainly give you some tips on how you too can start organising your valuable documents.
It’s really quite simple – once you identify the categories you want, you must sort through your papers and allocate them to each file folder or three ring binder. We chose the binder option with labelled tab pages to separate each category.
What’s In Your Binder?
Not every item listed below may be relevant to you and your family, but we’ve tried to list as many options as possible. Add your own if we’ve not covered something relating to your personal circumstances. Consider this a guide for you to get started, not a rule book you must follow to a T.
Create a profile page for each individual living in your household. Keep these under lock and key, ideally!
- Complete legal name
- Birth date and where they were born
- Driver’s licence
- Passport number
- Health card number
- Social Insurance Numbers (SIN)
- Blood type
- Contact information for healthcare providers or medical specialists
- Other important contacts such as daycare, schools, work/business
- Life insurance
- Disability insurance
- Home insurance
- Auto insurance
- Long-term care insurance
- Critical illness insurance
- Health and dental insurance
- Birth certificates
- Marriage certificate(s)
- Divorce certificate(s)
- Powers of attorney
- Personal mandates and directives for health, finances and end of life
- Accounts, account numbers and names of financial institutions –
- Online banking access cards and passwords (how to access them by a trusted individual or executor)
- Line(s) of credit
- Credit card(s) information
- Safety deposit box number, location and key
- Registered Retirement Savings Plans (RRSPs)
- Registered Retirement Income Funds (RRIFs)
- Tax-Free Savings Accounts (TFSAs)
- Registered Education Savings Plans (RESPs)
- Non-registered savings and investment accounts
- Pension accounts
- Real estate deeds
- Business documents if you own or co-own a business
- List of jewellery, art, collectibles and other valuables
- Your Digital Legacy Plan. List of digital assets and how to access them by a trusted individual or executor. For example: Usernames and passwords. Include websites, subscriptions, social media accounts, digital files and so on.
Professional Contacts Information
Include phone numbers and email addresses.
- Lawyer or Notary
- Financial Advisor(s)
- Accountant(s): personal and business if applicable
- Power of Attorney
Storing Your Document Files or Binder
Once you have created and organised your documents and personal items, you will need to consider where to store it so that it is easily accessible should the need arise.
Be sure to let a trusted person or your executor know its whereabouts.
- Safety deposit box (accessible by a joint owner or your executor)
- Home safe
- Filing cabinet or portable filing box
And Finally, Cheers to a Job Well Done
Creating your file/binder may look like a daunting job to undertake, however if you tackle the task category by category, it’ll soon be done. The end results are worth the effort not only for protecting your valuable papers but it will also add to your personal peace of mind and that of your family members.