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Are you be able to locate insurance contracts, wills, and other important personal records quickly and easily? With this simple document locator system, you no longer need to wonder where to file a paper or where to find it.

An official certificate of every birth, death, marriage, and divorce should be on file in the locality where the event occurred. The Federal Government does not maintain files or indexes of these records. These records are filed permanently in a State vital statistics office or in a city, county, or other local office.

Click here to obtain a certified copy of any of the certificates, or write or go to the vital statistics office in the State or area where the event occurred. Addresses and fees are given for each event in the State or area concerned.

Source: National Center for Health Certificates

Are you be able to locate insurance contracts, wills, and other important personal records quickly and easily? With this simple document locator system, you no longer need to wonder where to file a paper or where to find it.

Most people have no idea where to start searching for their important records. They usually keep them scattered in various locations—tax records in a file cabinet, savings bonds in a home safe, wills at an attorney’s office, some contracts or deeds in a bank safe deposit box.

There’s a reason many people do not have an organized record-keeping system: It’s because getting records organized is a stressful, confusing chore.

The Document Locator System is effective because it takes away that stress and confusion. This simple recordkeeping system provides an easy way to keep track of your important personal (not business) records, keeping them organized and available. You will not miss out on a tax deduction because you did not keep the necessary receipt. More importantly, the document locator system will help a spouse or executor locate documents in case of your death or disability.

Set Up Tabbed Sections

Set up tabbed sections in your files with the following captions (modifying, deleting or adding sections as appropriate to your particular situation):

  1. Banking
  2. Children
  3. Credit and Loans
  4. Employment
  5. Estate Planning [including wills and post-mortem matters]
  6. Important Personal
  7. Insurance
  8. Investments
  9. Major Assets
  10. Professional Residences
  11. Tax Records
  12. Vehicles [including boats]

File The Documents

File the documents and other records listed in Column 1 in the file sections recommended in Column 2 of the Document Locator. Where the original or a copy is filed elsewhere, note this location in Column 3 of the Document Locator. You can also use Column 3 for any notes regarding the document (such as: Passport—"Renew by October 12, 2000" or IRA—"Take first distribution by December 31, 2000"). Where your filing system suggests a file section other than that recommended in Column 2, just substitute your location for the recommended one. For items other than those named here, use the blank spaces at the end of the Locator.

This Document Locator is shown at the end of this Guide.

Tip: Put a photocopy of the Document Locator, which will contain the locations of all your important documents, in a fireproof safe or safe deposit box.

Tip: In addition to the Document Locator System, an essential part of making sure you’ve done everything you can to help your heirs and family members get your affairs in order in the event of death or disability is to prepare a post-mortem letter to a spouse or executor. The purpose of such a letter is to provide them with the information needed to locate records or assets. This will prevent erosion of your estate by unnecessary taxes, unfounded claims or just plain loss of assets.

The key is to develop and follow some type of record-keeping system, not necessarily the one recommended here. If you have any questions, contact your financial advisor.

Tip: Cull your records every so often. By getting rid of the papers you no longer need, you’ll minimize the ever-encroaching mountains of paper we all find ourselves dealing with, and often buried under.

Documents You Should Be Able To Locate Easily

Certain documents, records and other information should be easily locatable in an emergency. These include (1) your personal records, (2) a list of your assets, (3) your estate planning records and (4) your financial records, as listed below:

Personal Records

  • Birth certificates of family members.
  • Death certificates of deceased family members.
  • Marriage license.
  • Divorce decree and custody agreement (if divorced).
  • Passports (updated)
  • Social Security numbers for family members
  • The names and addresses of family members, close relatives and any persons mentioned in a will.
  • Military records.
  • List of previous employers.
  • List of government employers.
  • Medical records and health insurance cards for family members.

In most cases, the reason these documents are needed is self-explanatory.

List of Your Assets

  • Description of all major assets that you own separately or jointly with your spouse or other person, together with the approximate values and location of deeds, titles, stock certificates or other evidence of ownership.

Note: Include cash, realty, investments, IRAs, retirement plan benefits, life insurance policies, interests in partnerships or other business entities, jewelry and other luxury items, automobiles, boats, antiques, coin collections, collectibles, art objects, and debts owed to you by others

  • Appraisals of valuable items,
  • Description of the approximate amounts of pension, military, and/or other benefits you or your spouse may be entitled to on retirement or death,
  • Insurance policies (including group life, individual life, health, casualty, auto, etc.) and identity and phone numbers of insurance agents.

Estate Planning Records

  • The whereabouts of your will and codicils, along with the name and address of the attorney who prepared them,
  • Title to cemetery plot or other burial arrangement,
  • Post-mortem letter to spouse or family members, to be opened after your death
  • Living will or other directions in case of disability.

Financial and Other Records

  • Location of all safe deposit boxes, keys, and passwords
  • Important canceled checks
  • The names and addresses of your CPA, attorney and any other professionals concerned with your financial affairs
  • Photographic or video record of house and its contents (for homeowners’ insurance purposes)
  • One statement for each bank account, IRA, mutual fund, broker or other account you own, along with the name and telephone number of the primary banker, broker or other contact person for each account
  • Brokers’ confirmation slips for purchases
  • A statement or other reference for any bank account that is not in your name
  • One statement or payment stub for each credit card, line of credit or outstanding loan
  • Income tax returns for at least six prior years (including all supporting records for past six years), and all prior gift tax returns
  • Records showing the original cost of any realty owned, cost of all improvements that can be added to tax basis, and depreciation taken (for business or rental property)
  • Bills of sale or receipts for major items
  • Equipment and appliance manuals and warranty information

Where To File What

Document Locator
DOCUMENT WHERE TO FILE OTHER LOCATION / Notes
Accident reports Insurance  
Adoption records Important Personal and/or Children  
Accountant Professionals  
Address book Important Personal  
Alimony records Tax Records  
Apartment—records for Residences  
Annuity Investments  
Antiques Major Assets  
Appliances—receipts, warranties and contracts for Major Assets  
Appraisals of assets Major Assets  
Assets—list of Major Assets  
Attorney Professionals and/or Estate Planning  
Auto insurance Vehicles and/or Insurance  
Auto loans Credit and Loans  
Auto mileage logs Tax Records  
Automobile title Vehicles  
Bank account statements Banking  
Bills of sale Major Assets  
Birth certificates Important Personal and/or Children  
Boat insurance Insurance  
Boat records Vehicles  
Broker account statements Investments  
Business interests Investments  
Canceled checks—general Banking  
Canceled checks—insurance Insurance  
Canceled checks—tax-related Tax Records  
Casualty loss records Insurance  
CD Banking and/or Investments  
Cemetery plot Estate Planning  
Charitable gifts Tax Records  
Checking account statements Banking  
Child support papers Important Personal and/or Children  
Claims—insurance Insurance  
Coin collection Major Assets  
Collections Major Assets  
Confirmation slips—from broker Investments  
CPA Professionals  
Credit cards—list of Credit and Loans  
Credit card statements Credit and Loans  
Credit report—from credit reporting agency Credit and Loans  
Credit union papers Banking and/or Credit and Loans  
Custody agreement Important Personal and/or Children  
Day care records Children  
Death benefits Employment  
Death certificate Important Personal  
Debts owed to you Investments  
Debts you owe Credit and Loans  
Deeds to homes Residences  
Disability insurance Insurance  
Dividends—records of Investments  
Divorce decree Important Personal  
Doctors Professionals  
Dues—professional or union Tax Records  
Employee benefits—description of Employment  
Employers—list of Employment  
Equipment—business use of Tax Records  
Equipment—warranties for Major Assets  
Expenses Tax Records  
Fees—deductible Tax Records  
Financial statement—your personal Credit and Loans  
Forms—tax Tax Records  
Funeral arrangements Estate Planning  
Furs Major Assets  
Gifts—taxable Tax Records  
Government employers—list of Employment  
Health insurance Insurance  
Home—contents of, photographic records Insurance  
Home office Tax Records  
Home improvements Residences  
Inherited property—record of basis Residences  
Insurance policies Insurance  
Interest—record of Residences and/or Tax Records  
IRA Banking  
Jewelry Major Assets  
K-1 Forms Tax Records  
Safe deposit box keys Banking  
Lawyers Professionals and/or Estate Planning  
Lease—home Residences  
License—driver’s Vehicles  
Life insurance policies Insurance  
Limited partnership documents Investments  
List of assets Major Assets  
List of automobiles Vehicles  
List of bank accounts Banking  
List of brokerage accounts Investments  
List of children’s schools Children  
List of credit cards Credit and Loans  
List of debts Credit and Loans  
List of employers—government and private Employers  
List of home improvements Residences  
List of life insurance policies Insurance  
List of safe deposit boxes Banking  
Living will Important Personal  
Loans—list of Credit and Loans  
Maintenance of appliances Major Assets  
Marriage certificate Important Personal  
Medical expenses Tax Records  
Medical professionals Professionals  
Mileage logs—expenses Tax Records  
Military discharge Important Personal  
Military employers Employment  
Mortgage note Residences  
Mortgage payments and yearly statement Residence and/or Tax Records  
Moving expense Tax Records  
Mutual funds Investments  
Naturalization papers Important Personal  
Owner’s manuals Vehicles and/or Major Assets  
Partnership statements Tax Records  
Passports Important Personal  
Paycheck stubs Employment  
Pets Important Personal  
Pension benefits—description Employment  
Photos of family members Important Personal  
Photos of home contents Insurance  
Properties owned—list of Residences  
Property damage—records Insurance  
Prospectuses Investments  
Real estate owned Residences  
Real estate taxes Residences and/or Tax Records  
Registration Vehicles  
Rent—records of Residences  
Residence closing—records of Residences  
Retirement accounts Investments  
Safe deposit boxes Banking  
Savings accounts Banking  
Schools—list of Children  
Service—military Employment and/or Important Personal  
Social Security numbers Important Personal  
Stock certificates Investments  
Survivors’ benefits—descriptions Employment  
Tax returns and forms Tax Records  
Traffic tickets Vehicles  
Titles to vehicles Vehicles  
Travel expenses Tax Records  
Trust documents Estate Planning  
Unemployment compensation Employment  
Vacation home Residences  
W-2 forms Tax Records  
Warranties Major Assets  
Wills Estate Planning  

How Long You Should Retain Your Records

Some documents and records need to be kept indefinitely but most can be discarded after a prescribed period. Here are some general rules of thumb as to how long you should keep them. Keep in mind that there may be individual circumstances in which legal considerations, for instance, dictate that documents be kept longer. The basic rule is: When in doubt, don’t throw it out. If you have any questions, check with your financial advisor.

Some documents and records need to be kept indefinitely but most can be discarded after a prescribed period. Here are some general rules of thumb as to how long you should keep them. Keep in mind that there may be individual circumstances in which legal considerations, for instance, dictate that documents be kept longer. The basic rule is: When in doubt, don’t throw it out. If you have any questions, check with your financial advisor.

Keep Indefinitely

  • Birth certificates
  • Adoption papers
  • Custody agreements
  • Death certificates
  • Deeds to property
  • Divorce papers
  • List of assets (keep current)
  • List of previous employers
  • Loans that have been paid off (canceled notes or other evidence)
  • Marriage certificates
  • Passports
  • Photographic or video record of house and household contents
  • Record of any governmental employment (e.g., armed forces)
  • Income tax returns (supporting documentation may be discarded after six years)
  • Tax forms and supporting records relating to non-deductible IRA contributions
  • Tax forms and supporting records relating to sale of a home

Keep for a Prescribed Period

  • Bank statements—six years
  • Brokers’ confirmation slips for purchases—until security is sold
  • Canceled checks—six years
  • Contracts—seven years after expiration
  • Credit card statements—six years
  • Receipts for home improvements that can be added to tax basis of home—six years after home is sold in a transaction that is not a “rollover” transaction
  • Insurance papers (all types of insurance)—four years after expiration
  • Mortgage records—three years after paid off
  • Owners’ manuals for appliances—until item is discarded
  • Receipts for major warranted purchases—until item is discarded or sold
  • Records supporting income tax returns and deductions (W-2s, 1099s, receipts)—six years
  • Warranties and extended service agreements—until expiration

Throw Out Now

  • Owners’ manuals and warranties for appliances and cars you no longer own
  • Receipts for credit card purchases if not major or related to a tax deduction

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