While there are several document locator/organizer templates available on the Internet, you can easily do this yourself with a three-ring binder. Start by creating sections, customizing appropriately for your family’s situation. Create subsections for individual family members within the Children and medical records sections, and consider dividing the financial section into assets and liabilities.
Next, you will need to develop a key indicating where certain items are located. Perhaps you keep current statements in your home office filing cabinet, while past tax returns and mortgage documents are stored in a banker’s box in a closet. Number each location, and then, throughout your organizer, place the number next to the item indicating where the additional records are located. You should include photocopies of the documents that you keep in your safe-deposit box in page protectors or envelopes that fit in your binder.
For example, in your Insurance section, you should list the company, policy type, number and premium due date. You may also want to list your agent’s name and phone number. You should then list where the original policy documents are stored, should someone need the original documents.
You may opt to keep your records digitally by creating a spreadsheet or computer document with the same sections. Save scans of important documents with your locater document. You can encrypt your files and store copies at online storage sites, such as Google Docs or Dropbox.
Remember, a personal records document locator is not intended to replace your will. It should be a resource for your loved ones to locate important documents when you are no longer able to. Likewise, if there were a natural disaster and you were forced to evacuate, you should be able to take your records document locator with you at a moment’s notice.
If creating your own binder still seems overwhelming, you may want to consider the book “Life Organizer: The Essential Record Keeper and Estate Planner;” pre-made organizing binders, like the ones available at TheLegacyDrawer.com, or complete kits like the Life at Hand Premier Organizer at LifeatHand.com
Next week I’ll take a closer look at documenting your digital records and assets. Meanwhile, if you’d like more information on records organizing books and kits, check out the “Money Talks Blog” at mdjonline.com.