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Identifying Key Documents

No one can be completely prepared for the unexpected. But in looking ahead, it’s always important to prepare or update important key documents so there will be less to worry about when the unexpected arrives.

A key documents file includes all things of a personal nature that you might need to access in an emergency. The information is pertinent and sensitive, so the file should be kept in a secure, discreet location that can be accessed quickly in emergent situations. It’s best to organize, protect and update these documents before they’re needed, but it is never too late to start identifying them.

The list below is a great reference guide for documents to include in your file:

  • Vital Records
    • Driver’s license
    • Birth certificate or adoption papers
    • Social Security card
    • Passport or citizenship papers (“green” card or naturalization papers)
    • Current Military identification or discharge papers (DD Form 214)
  • Medical Information
    • Immunization record
    • Current list of prescription drugs, dosages, and name of the pharmacy
    • List of known allergies
    • Name and contact information of all current medical providers
    • Brief medical history for each family member
    • Health, life, and disability insurance cards and policies
  • Estate Planning Documents
    • Last Will and Testament
    • Trust Agreement
    • Financial Power of Attorney
    • Healthcare Power of Attorney
    • Living Will Declaration
    • Funeral instructions
    • Contact information for estate planning attorney, personal representative(s), trustee(s), and agent(s)
  • Financial Information
    • Copies of the front and back of each credit card
    • List of all bank account numbers
    • List of all investment account numbers
    • List of all retirement/pension account numbers
    • Detailed information about any current income/benefits
    • Detailed information about outstanding mortgages/loans
    • Name and contact information for a financial planner, wealth manager, investment advisor, and accountant
  • Insurance Information
    • Insurance identification card or Declarations page for each type of coverage (i.e., homeowners’, renter’s, flood, earthquake, automobile, and long-term health care insurance)
  • Property Records
    • Real estate deed
    • Mortgage document
    • Rental agreement or lease agreement
    • Auto/boat/RV registration and title
    • List of household inventory
  • Contacts
    • Name(s) and address(es) of friends and family to reach in case of emergency
    • Neighbors who have access to your house
    • Employers and benefits administrators
  • Other
    • List of usernames and passwords
    • Location of safe deposit box keys and safe combinations
  • Pets
    • Veterinary records
    • Photographs in case you become separated
    • Identification Chip Numbers

Once your key documents are gathered, remember to share where you’ve secured them to a trusted friend, partner, or family member in case they need to be accessed on your behalf. Taking time to prepare them is one way to establish a sense of control and provide peace of mind in times when they may be needed.