When you need an important business or personal record, can you find it? Who else knows where to find information if there is an emergency? Can you easily put your records together when it is time to file your taxes or just pay your bills? If you cannot easily answer these questions, perhaps it is time for a system. Here are a few tips.
Categorize Your Records
- Emergency Information – this should be contact information, such as family, friends, and personal representatives.
- Medical Information – this would include your doctors, dentists, health care providers, history, medications, and immunization records.
- Personal Information – there are important documents required throughout your life such as birth certificates, driver’s license, passports, wills, veteran’s papers, vehicle titles, marriage or divorce documents, and more. Then there is the inventory of your personal possessions, such as furniture, appliances, valuables, electronics, vehicles, etc.
- Financial Information – this includes your rental agreements, utilities, credit cards, debts, checking or savings accounts, insurances, employment records, business interests, property interests, tax returns, warranty documents, repair bills, etc.
Collect Your Documents
Make lists of what documents would fall under the aforementioned categories. Then, collect the documents, organize them, and determine where and how you are going to keep them. Record storage depends on the importance of the document, as well as how often you need to access it.
- Find secure storage space for long-term documents you rarely use, such as your birth certificate, passport, will, trust, etc. This could be a safe deposit box or even your own personal safe.
- Create a financial filing system. There are many systems easily found at office supply stores or even home stores, such as Target and K-Mart. You can implement a bill paying system, keeping receipts for taxes, collecting warranty documents, compiling insurance records, and more.
- Create a personal filing system. Again, there are many systems available for keeping this information, such as your medical records and household inventory.
What should you keep?
There are obvious documents that you should never discard, such as a birth certificate, passport, or will. The IRS maintains you should keep financial information that concern your taxes for at least seven years, which includes tax returns, banking records, deductible receipts, and more. You should retain other items that you could need for a claim, such as medical records, insurances, and warranties. When in doubt, keep it until you are sure you can discard it.
What should you discard?
Clean out expired documents that will not have any further use. After you pay your bills and receive an invoice that shows it paid, discard it unless you need it for a claim, refund, or tax deduction. Reduce double documentation – for example, discard your pay stubs once you receive your W-2.
Take a little time to organize and let your family know where to access your records when necessary. This will pay off in so many ways.
Jean Storms, MPM® is the founder/author of LandlordSource and has been a NARPM® member since January 1993.
Disclaimer: LandlordSource does not represent the article content in this website as legal advice. It is shared information only and up to the reader to use this information responsibly, seeking legal advice as necessary to their business.