Taking proactive financial planning steps such as estate planning, can help you feel more empowered and in control, even in times of uncertainty. One important aspect of that is creating an organized and detailed filing system for key documents and information. This will not only help you feel more in control of your estate, it will be invaluable to your heirs when the time comes for them to handle matters.
Create folders for five key categories and the important information that goes along with them.
Birth, Marriage and Divorce: Birth certificates for you, your spouse and children. Copy of your marriage certificate, and copy of any divorce decrees or judgment including details of child support, alimony and property settlements.
Proof of Ownership: Keep copies of house and other real estate deeds (2nd home, investment properties, timeshares), vehicle titles, stock certificates, savings bonds, proof of loans, partnership and corporate agreements. Include a copy of your Social Security number.
Life Insurance and Retirement: List of life insurance policies and annuities with account numbers and beneficiaries. List of retirement accounts (such as an IRA, 401(k), 403(b) or 457) with account numbers and beneficiaries. List of any pension statement summary (city, county, state or federal pensions) which outlines the beneficiary, and terms for the survivor.
Bank and Financial: Copy of recent bank statements (checking, savings, money market, C.D., etc.), copy of recent taxable investment statements (Brokerage, mutual fund, and internet bank), copy of recent loan statements you owe (mortgage, auto loan, student loan, credit cards, etc.). Possible list of user names and passwords.
Tax File: Keep at least the last three years of tax returns and supporting documents. Your executor will need to file a final return and a complete tax return can provide great insight into any missing assets.