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Do you know where the following Ten Critical Personal Documents That Need To Be Stored Safely are? Are they in a location that offers a measure of fire, water, and theft protection? Are these documents somewhere that you can get your hands on them quickly if you need to? I dare say that with today’s hectic lives, the answers for many people to these questions is no. Today, is a great time to do something about your critical personal documents storage.
(Please note that I am not a licensed lawyer or financial planner. The information below should not be construed as legal, financial, or other such advice. It is simply my research and observations from my point of view.)
The most common critical personal documents include:
1. Official Birth Certificate-Applications for passports, social security cards, marriage licenses, and registrations for school generally require you to show an official birth certificate. If you do not have one safely stored where you can access it, contact the Vital Records Office in the state where you were born to order one. The Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) offers this helpful webpage with vital record contact information for the 50 U.S. states and U.S. territories.
2. Marriage Licenses and Divorce Decrees-Ladies if you are changing your last name due to getting married or divorced, you will have to show these documents to receive a new social security card. For men and women, you may be asked to show these documents when adding or subtracting health care beneficiaries, changing beneficiaries on life insurance, etc… The CDC vital records links webpage above also lists information on where to obtain official copies of either of these documents if needed.
3. Will-Generally when a lawyer draws up your will, they will keep an original copy of the will on file and they will give you several official copies for your safekeeping, as well. On a personal opinion note, I know that there are online service that you can use to draft a will. Although, these options may work fine, I highly recommend that you consult an attorney in your state of residence when drafting a will. These individuals should be well-versed in your state’s laws regarding such documents and able to help you work through any particular needs related to your individual circumstances.
4. Power of Attorney-Also, along the lines of a will, an attorney can draft this document for you. The Power of Attorney specifies, should you become incapacitated, who manage your affairs for you.
5. Social Security Card-Guard your social security card like it is gold, because to an identity thief it is precious indeed. Do not carry around your social security card in your wallet. You will need to show your Social Security card for things such as job applications, voter registration, application for military service, government benefits, etc… If you need an official card, go to the Social Security Administration website for details.
6. Passport-Planning on traveling to other parts of the world? Then more than likely you will need one of these documents if you do not already have one. It serves as a form of id and uniquely identifies you. Identity thieves also love to get their hands on passports so caution in storage of these documents is essential.
7. Vehicle Titles and Mortgage Deeds-As long as you have your vehicles and home or property, you will need to retain these documents.
8. Military Service Records-These records are crucial to access many of the services available to veterans and their spouses. The National Archives Veterans Service Records section of the website is the place to go for information on obtaining records for past military service.
9. Death Certificates-The certificates of immediate family and extended family for whom you are executor of their estates such stored under lock and key. Death certificates will be needed to assist surviving family members in filing for any government benefits or life insurance that they may be due.
10. Life Insurance Policies-Your official copies of these policies should be stored safely for access if needed.
Other documents, depending on your individual circumstances, need to kept in a safe place. These documents may include adoption or guardianship forms, articles of incorporation for a business, trust documents, property and income tax records, and vaccine records.
Also, a great tip from Good Housekeeping, is to keep a list of your bank account and credit cards numbers, and investment accounts safely locked up. Also, I recommend storing a copy of your driver’s license, as well. Additionally, keep an inventory of the items in your home (written, and/or video/photo) should you ever need to provide proof of ownership to an insurance company.
I highly recommend, keeping precious family photos (whether on paper, disc, external drive, etc..) in safe storage, as well.
Where to Store Your Critical Records
First, let me start by saying that no solution can guarantee absolute safety for your documents. We, as humans, simply are not capable of designing totally fail-safe systems. What we can do though is to make use of the best safe storage solutions that are currently available to us.
Your two main options in document storage are a home safe or a safe deposit box. Home safes come in a wide variety of options with varying levels of fire and water resistance. Also, some home safes are portable and others are designed to be attached to the floor or other structure in the house.
Safe deposit boxes are available to rent in a variety of box sizes at designated bank locations. These safe deposit boxes are located in vaults that have commercial grade fire protection and are subject to bank security procedures to access.
Some people choose to use a combination of both to store valuable possessions and some just one or another. It is really a matter of evaluating the options for yourself and choosing what you are most comfortable with. You may wish to consult a source such as Consumer Reports when looking at what is available to you.
For more home and life tips: