Personal Record Keeping



If you have let your personal record keeping get out of order over a long length of time, chances are you are missing several documents.

If fact you may be missing documents just because you never had them! I am going to go through each category of documents and let you know how to track down your documents, and why you need to have them.

Personal Files

The first area of personal record keeping we are going to tackle is personal records. These files will consist of records that are not necessarily financial in nature. Files that are personal usually offer the most challenge when trying to organize. Many of the documents that fall into this group may be misplaced or lost.

These documents can be very important and every effort should be made to make sure you have a complete set of these for your personal record keeping. Some people prefer to keep these types of documents in a safety deposit box or a fire proof file box. If that is your preference, note in your household notebook the location of that particular document.

Birth, Marriage and Death Certificates

These certificates are very important to have available. They will be needed for many reasons such as applications for passports, school admittance, and applying for social security, changing your name, and accessing accounts of the deceased. Be sure to have them in your personal record keeping.

You will always need a certified copy of your certificate. A certified copy can only come from the state where you/they were born, married or died. If you do not have a certified copy of your certificates for your personal record keeping it can be obtained from the Department of Vital Records in your appropriate state. This website will direct you to that department for the state.

Social Security Cards

Our society seems to run on social security numbers. It is a very important document for your personal record keeping. Everything from opening a bank account to filling out tax returns requires a social security number. Most newborns are assigned a SSN before they ever leave the hospital. If you do not have your social security card, or if it has worn out, you need a replacement.

Make sure you have your card and any other members of your family. Write the numbers down someplace secure. They will be needed in the future. This website will guide you to how to replace a social security card for your personal record keeping.

Divorce and Separation Papers

Divorce and separation papers may be needed to prove the name change, agreed upon child support, etc. Again a certified copy will be needed in many instances.

If you do not have a certified copy of this document in your personal record keeping, contact the attorney who handled the case. If you cannot locate the attorney, the government agency in the state of the divorce will provide you a copy for a small fee.

You can use the same website to obtain birth certificates to get more information on divorce and separation papers.


Buy a copy of Easy-PIM Personal Records Workbook so you never have to go searching for those documents again. They will be safe and at your finger tips.


Military Discharge Papers

Anyone who served in the military received discharge papers upon their release. These papers should be kept even after the veteran is deceased. They may be needed as proof of service to verify eligibility for veteran’s benefits or for a military burial.

If you do not have the appropriate records documenting military service, it is very important you replace these for your personal record keeping. Be sure to note somewhere the location of the documents. Here is a website that will give you direction on how to obtain these records.

Passports

If you do not have a passport you should get one. You can go to the post office to get an application. A passport is the "ultimate" in identification. Although a passport is not crucial to your personal record keeping, it is a good thing to have.

If you have lost your passport you will need to report it immediately. Here is a website that can give you more information.

Immigration Records

If you have lost copies of your immigration and naturalization records you must get a copy for your personal record keeping. With the Patriot Law in the US this will avoid much hassle for you if you have them on hand.

You can contact the attorney that helped with your naturalization. You can also go to this website for more information.

Other Personal Records

There are many other types of personal records. Here is a list of some of the most common and where to look for replacement documents for your personal record keeping.

Funeral Arrangements

If it is a national plan you can contact them and get a copy of the contract. If it is a local funeral home, you will need to contact them.

Wills and Trusts

Generally wills and trusts will be handled through the attorney that executed the will or formed the trust. However, if the will was filed it would be in the county records. The methods of filing will vary between counties.

Trusts are different. May states do not require the trust to be filed. It also depends on where you live. Contact an attorney if you have questions regarding trusts.

Refer to the estate planning section of this website for more information on wills, trusts, why you need them and some basic terminology.

Contracts

If you need to replace a contract that you have with a provider (for example an Employment contract) you must notify that provider to get copies.

Most other personal records would include financial plans, travel benefit packages, religious records, passwords, household services, medical history, membership organizations, etc. These documents would have to be obtained directly from the provider of the service.


Do you know of other resources to find paperwork? Please share!


Assets, Liabilities and Insurance

Tracking down missing documents for these three categories is much easier than personal documents. However, without these records your personal record keeping is incomplete. In order to have a complete set of records, be sure to obtain any that are missing.

Most of these records will be dependent on vendors. Let’s start with assets.

Assets

Assets are defined by the Merriam Webster Dictionary as “the entire property of a person or company that may be used to pay debts.” This seems like an excellent definition, but I do not think it is quite complete.

Although it is true that assets can be used to pay debts, I prefer to think of assets as property that increases a person’s net worth. With that being said it stands to reason that a full record of these is necessary. This especially holds true in cases of emergency when proving your ownership of an asset may be needed.

Deposit Accounts and Investment Accounts

These accounts will comprise checking and savings accounts and investments such as annuity contracts, mutual funds, RIT’s, benefit plans and the like. You will need to contact the person that holds that account to replace the information. Sometimes this can be problematic.

Let’s say, for instance, you are closing up an estate or helping a widow of a good friend. You don’t know what accounts he may have had so how do you know where to look? There are several ways you can investigate.

First watch the mail. Most companies that hold cash or investments for someone have regular mailings regarding the account. If you become aware of an account you didn’t know existed you can now contact that company and request information. They will likely want other documents, such as a death certificate, before they will release information.



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Second you can look at web sites that advertise lost assets. When a company has an account that remains unclaimed they are required by law to turn it over to the state where that account was. There are several websites that will give you the address to look for unclaimed property. Be careful! There are websites out there that look like a government site and will have you fill out the paperwork only to charge you a percentage of the amount. Make sure you are dealing with the state website. Here is one website that will connect you directly to the state agencies.

Third you can look through old paperwork. If someone hasn’t kept their paperwork in order, and you are trying to figure it all out, chances are somewhere they stashed a notice or piece of paper with information on it.

Owned Property

The next type of asset we want to talk about is property that your actually own. I am talking about houses, cars, boats, jet skis, etc. You need the title of these assets to prove you own them.

Contact the state where you bought the asset to inquire about the title. For property you will need a deed. Again, the state should be able to help you.

Liabilities

Most of us have too many liabilities and wish we had less. Liabilities are usually an obligation you have made to repay a debt which was incurred for the purchase of an asset.

For example, when you want to purchase an automobile you usually incur the obligation of the car payment. When you purchase a home, a mortgage debt is associated with this major asset. Liabilities and debt are a fact of life. They should be handled with great care when incurred; full documentation of the conditions of the liability must be maintained.


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Liabilities tend to be a little easier to prove. Again you will contact the person or company that made the loan. So for mortgage debt contact the mortgage company. For credit cards check out the credit card company. For consumer loans you can contact the bank.

In addition, most loans are recorded with the state to assure the lien against the property can be enforced if needed. Check with the state where the loan was made.

If you are not sure if liabilities exist you can again rely on the mail. I will almost 100% guarantee you that if a few payments are not made someone will be in contact.

You can also check old paperwork. Be aware that the loan might be paid off and you would want to confirm that.

Insurance

The last area we are going to discuss will be insurance. Whether you think that you can never have enough insurance, or if you carry the bare minimum, you must keep careful documentation of your policies in your personal record keeping.

Many people are intimidated by this area. Insurance, at best, is very complex and detailed. It is sometimes difficult to determine if you are adequately insured, or if you are over insured.

Insurance is an extremely important area that requires your attention. Insurance is used to protect your most valuable assets. From your life to your home, the proper amount of insurance is very important. The proceeds of your life insurance may provide for your family if you die. The liability policy may protect you from lawsuits or unnecessary expenses. Make sure you are comfortable with your insurance needs.


Keep your insurance records up to date and available can be critical in the times you need them. I mean, when do you need your insurance papers? When something happens!! Don't be caught unable to find the paperwork you need. Easy-PIM Insurance Workbook can help you better manage your Insurance needs. Order it today.


Seek professional help if you feel it is necessary. Pursue the facts and figures you need for adequate coverage for your particular situation. Although those premium payments may seem a financial drain, it would be more expensive if you needed the insurance and didn’t have it.

It is more difficult to track down insurance if you are unsure of what you, or someone else, may have. Again the best places to start are with the mail and old documents. Insurance is generally not recorded in some public record, to that will not help you. Personal record keeping is vital in this area.

Many times insurance agents can help you track something down, but there are many variables that can inhibit this effort.

Needless to say documentation for your insurance is very critical. Believe me when I say that if you have life insurance and you die, the insurance company will not be beating a path to your spouse’s door to give them a check. Help them out, document thoroughly.

Conclusion

As you can see replacing documents can be quite time consuming. That is why it is so important to keep your document current and recorded as to where they are and what it is.


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