Emergency Planning – Where do you keep your important papers?

We have all heard of it, someone had 5 minutes to get out of the house and flee to safety – what would you do? Would you know where to find the vital papers such as insurance policies, warranties, your will and power of attorneys, etc? Are they all in one place or scattered around the house?

Unfortunately disaster can strike anywhere at anytime and we need to acknowledge that this could happen to any one of us.  A simple plan can be all that is needed to ensure you are not adversely affected by any disasters. This could also include disasters such as death or accidents where you can not physically get home to retrieve these items yourself.

Here are some steps you can take to protect yourself and your family:

1.  Gather all of your financial papers, documents and information plus any personal identification. The following is a list of some of these items but feel free to add to this list yourself:

Prior income tax forms/receipts; credit card statements; insurance policies and employer benefit statements; mortgage and loan statements; titles, deeds and property/vehicle registrations; identification records such as drivers license, passport, SIN card, health card; marriage and divorce certificates; appraisal certificates and bank account statements, investment records and original share certificates.

2.  Decide where you are going to keep all of these items. For storage at home, a fire proof box or filing case is your best alternative, preferably something that is portable so you can take it with you when you flee the house. If you prefer offsite storage, a safety deposit box is an option, especially for unique documents such as share certificates.  I suggest you keep only the latest copy of each document to avoid too much bulk and file the other copies in your regular files.

3.  Original documents should be kept in plastic to identify them as important and will ensure you don’t give them away.

4.  A central list of all contact information, i.e. telephone numbers, addresses, email addresses, should be kept with these documents to assist you in times of need.

5.  Don’t forget about your computer.  It is an automatic procedure at any business to ensure they have a backup process in place and you should also. Store the backup floppy or CD with your documents to be taken off site.

6.  Advise family members, friends or trusted neighbours of where these items are kept in case they are the ones who will be looking for the documents in your absence.

As part of the plan, you should review your insurance coverage to ensure you have the appropriate coverage for what you need.  Keep in mind that your needs change over time and you should keep on top of these items.  Ensure that the beneficiaries are accurate also.

In conclusion, the simpler the plan the more likely it will work and that you will be able to implement it. So take a few minutes and you will be more secure for it!

Keeping your best interests in mind!

Debbie McCulloch, B.Comm., CMA, CFP
Owner & President, MC Wealth Management