Properly organizing and storing your financial records can pay off for both yourself and for your survivors, on your death. You will save yourself or them time, money, and aggravation.
Key records that should be in a safe, fireproof box or a location such as a bank safe deposit box include: birth, death, and marriage certificates; passports; real estate deeds; our will and, if you’re married, your spouse’s will (make sure your estate executor knows how to get it, since this may be the first document that person will have to access); life insurance policies; stock and bond certificates, if you do not keep them with a broker; if relevant: divorce decrees, adoption papers, military records and citizenship papers; and any other vital papers you would have a difficult time replacing in case of fire or theft.
Copies of these documents and other records should be kept in a clearly marked filing system in your home. Be sure that your spouse, immediate family members, and estate executor know where the originals and copies are stored.
In your safe deposit box, you also should keep photos or videos of everything you own. In case of a fire or theft, you’ll have a record to document your loss, which may make it easier to collect on your homeowner’s insurance.
Don’t keep advance directives such as a living will or a health care power of attorney in the safe deposit box, though. The person empowered to act should have them so he or she can act immediately, if you have a medical emergency.