The peak of hurricane season is upon us. You may be stocking your home with bottled water, batteries, and non-perishables, but don’t overlook one vital task: securing your documents.
How to get started with organizing your documents today
First, find a secure location, such as a password-protected online vault, fireproof home safe or bank safe deposit box. Decide which documents should go into this centralized place. If you want to minimize clutter, you may consider printing out the links to online statements with their corresponding passwords. Include any documents containing crucial financial information. Here's a list of suggested documents:
- Quarterly and Annual Statements: IRAs, 401(k)s, funds, brokerage accounts, statements from last quarter and statements from the end of the previous calendar year (that is, the last Q4 statement you received).
- Healthcare Benefit Information: Medicare or Medicare Advantage Plan, group health plan, individual health policies, LTC policies and contact information for insurers, HMOs, your doctor(s) and your insurance agent.
- Life Insurance Information: document when level premiums on straight term policies end, the death benefit and present cash value on any whole life policies and the required premiums on any policy.
- Beneficiary Designation Forms: beneficiary designations often take priority over requests made in a will when it comes to 401(k)s, 403(b)s and IRAs. Also, retain copies and review them with a retirement planner or attorney so they can help you gauge the tax efficiency of the eventual transfer of assets.
- Social Security Basics: if you have not claimed benefits yet, include your Social Security card, W-2 form from last year (or Schedule SE and Schedule C plus 1040 form), and certified copies of your birth certificate, marriage license, divorce papers, military discharge paperwork or proof of citizenship, if applicable.
- Social Security Statements: take a screenshot or print a copy of the statement that tracks your accrued benefits.
- Pension Matters: collect special letters or bulletins from your employer, your Individual Benefit Statement, your Summary Plan Description and contact information for someone at the employee benefits department where you work.
- Real Estate Documents: deeds, mortgage documents, property tax statements, homeowner insurance policy and a list of the contents in your home and their estimated value.
- Estate Planning Paperwork: your estate plan, any trust paperwork, a will and a durable power of attorney or health care directive.
- Tax Returns: at least have a copy of your 1040 and state returns from the prior year.
- List of Digital Assets: contents of a cloud, a photo library, social media pages and all corresponding passwords.
Remember that securing your documents does no good unless someone else knows where to find them. Be sure to tell your loved ones where to find your documents and provide them with password information or permission to access to your safe deposit box, if necessary.
Securing your critical documents is vital all year round, not just for hurricane season! They're particularly crucial for estate planning purposes. Feel free to give us a call if you’d like guidance on estate planning or other financial matters.