I just had a "clean out" on a listing which meant everything had to go to prepare it for market. The concept of important documets in one place became a real eye opener.
Where are your important documents?
On July 4, 2010, my mother lost her 11 year battle with ovarian cancer. I spent 8 weeks caring for her full time in hospice. I learned more in those 8 weeks about my mother, about my family, about life and about myself than I probably ever have.
One lesson I want to share. My mother was a very organized woman. She kept everything in it's place and could lay her finger on anything at any time. That was a good thing for me when I forgot my homework and she would bring it to school for me. Or when my brother couldn't find his baseball mitt 5 minutes before it was time to leave for practice, or when Dad misplaced his keys. Mom knew where everything was.
So when it was time to talk about the "important documents" we would need after mom's death I wasn't concerned. But my siblings and I soon found out that it might be a challenge to find those documents after all. In the last year or so her memory started getting a little less keen and in her last weeks it was difficult to remember anything at all. She called it her "chemo brain". Fortunately, we were able to find all of her important documents before her death. They were all tucked away in folders in a couple of fire resistant file cabinets. Nice and orderly. This led me to wonder just how many elderly people go through this same type of thing and their family is left to sort and try to find these documents after their death.
In August, an elderly client of mine asked me to sell his vacant lot. He had purchased the land on a private contract. The lot has been paid off for years. I asked him if he had the fulfillment of contract deed. "The what?" was his reply. I explained to him what I was looking for and he said he didn't know and what if he didn't have it? He thought the original landowner would surely be dead by now since he was 90 years old way back then.
Again, fortunately for my client he was able to put his hands on it eventually. He had found it in an envelope in a box in his garage.
Once again, this led me to think of a list of some important documents you may have and where to keep them.
Originals you rarely need should be stored in a bank safe-deposit box.
When you should discard and who you should give copies to.
Adoption papers - Never discard - Executor, lawyer
Citizenship Papers - Never discard - Executor
Divorce Decree - Never discard - Lawyer
Lawsuits - Never discard- Lawyer
Household Inventory - Never discard - Financial Advisor
Photos of Possessions - Never discard - Financial Advisor
Military Discharge - Never discard
Veteran's Papers - Never discard
Originals you sometimes need should be stored in a Fire resistant safe at home.
When to discard/shred and who to give copies to:
Birth Certificate - Never discard
Cemetery Deed - Never discard - Heir
Real Estate Deeds - 10 yrs after property is sold
Death Certificates - Never discard - Executor
Diplomas - Never discard
Guardianship Arrangements - Never discard - Executor, guardian
Health Records - Never discard - Doctor
Immunization Records - Never discard - Doctor
Marriage Certificate - Never discard - Executor
Medical Directive - Never discard - Doctor, Heir
Naturalization Certificate - Never discard
Tax Documents should be stored in a locked filing cabinet
When to discard:
Bank Statements - Seven Years
Cancelled Checks - Seven Years
Credit Card Statements - Seven Years
Home Purchase/Improvement (deeds, surveys, title policies, loan papers, receipts etc. ) - Seven Years after home is sold
Tax Returns/Supporting documents - Seven years after filing date
Form 8606 - Seven years after IRA is liquidated
Investment Documents should be stored in a locked filing cabinet
When to discard and who to give copies to:
Annuity Contracts - Annuity paid out - Financial Advisor
Loan Agreements - Ten years after loan is repaid
Pension Plan Documents - Never discard - Financial Advisor
Real Estate Purchase & Improvements - Seven years after property is sold
Investment Account Statements - Seven years after last investment held in account is sold
Of course, this is just a partial list of documents you might keep. There are others, such as Trust Documents, Savings Bonds, Power of Attorney, Will and Lease Agreements for example.
I gave this list to my elderly client once he found his deed. Maybe you have a loved one or a client who might appreciate the reminder? Where are your important documents?