One of my 2013 goals was to get better organized when it came to all our vital paperwork, but it took me awhile to decide how I wanted to do that.
I also work for a company that understands how easily and often identity theft can happen, so I’m a naturally cautious person when it comes to lumping sensitive information into one spot. I don’t do things like bank from my iPhone, log all my financial information into one spot on a site like Mint.com, etcetera and so forth! Thus the idea of a family binder sort of horrified me. What kind of moron puts all that important stuff in one spot?!!?
But after reading this blog post last year, I decided to become that moron.
I really did like the idea of all the important stuff being in one spot that is easily grabbed in the event of an emergency – and wasn’t in a spot commonly checked by home invaders like a filing cabinet – and got to work designing one that worked for my family.
What goes in it?
This is really up to you – what do you want to be able to grab in case of a fire or other emergency? Our binder contains a bit of everything, broken into categories – read below for more details and free print-outs for your own Family Binder!
- Bio Page for each member – human or pet
- Life event certificates (birth, death, marriage)
- Social Security Cards (stored in large business card sheet protector)
- Important Contacts Sheet: If you want to keep a record of any personal bankers, insurance agents, realtors, babysitters, doctors, specialists, you name it – put it here!
- Copies of our annual physicals (if you don’t already get these, ask your physician’s office to send you copies of your results each year)
- Copies of other medical events or testing (for example, my annual allergy testing – but maybe surgical info, heart testing, diabetes info, etc would go here for your family)
- Medical History Sheets for each family member (GREAT one found here)
- Insurance Information Sheet: Numbers & contact info for things like our car, home, medical, dental, vision, and life insurance policies
- Financial Information Sheet: Banking accounts, credit cards, debit cards, IRA/401K plans, HRA accounts, etc.
- Credit Score copies (we order these annually and I suggest you do, too! They’re free!)
- Copies of life insurance policies
- Homeowners Insurance Declaration (policy copy)
- Vehicle Sheet: Each vehicle’s protector contains title, registration, inspection, & insurance copy information
- House Survey
- Deed to house
Each year of taxes has it’s own pocket (I used these) and I keep seven years of tax records. Why seven? Because although the statute of limitations for the IRS is 3 years, if they’ve determined you’ve under-reported by 25%, they can go up to 7. We don’t under-report, but that is just my “All Hell Breaks Loose” attitude that causes me to over-plan and over-save all the things, lol.
- Tax return
- W2 forms
- Receipts for claims: Tax-deductible donations, energy-saving items, etc.
- Mortgage Interest statements
- Property tax statements
Other great ideas that may pertain to your family would be copies of any Last Will & Testaments, medical directives, other property information, written home inventories/recipets (always a good idea to pin a photo of high dollar items to receipts for insurance claim purposes), any USB cards you back up family photos onto, home evacuation plans, etc.
Now Keep It Safe
Now that you’ve got your entire life in one binder, it’s severely important you keep this in a place not easily accessible to the wrong hands. This means you’re not keeping this visible on a bookshelf in your home office, it isn’t hanging out in your master bedroom closet, it’s not chilling in your obvious filing cabinet. I’m quite serious. This is where you need to put on your creative thinking cap and find a space that works for you – maybe it’s taped to the underside of a heavy fabric armchair, maybe it’s hidden inside a bland looking toy box in your children’s nursery (children’s bedrooms are one of the least ransacked areas in home invasions). Think hard! Avoid these following high-checked areas – and check out this post from LifeHacker if you need help brainstorming your best spot – and remember that wherever you pick, it also needs to be a place you can access quickly & easily in the event of something like a fire:
- Master bedrooms & closets
- Sock drawers/dresser drawers
- Behind toilet tanks & under mattresses
- The freezer (unless hideously well hidden)
Now Print It Out & Put It Together!
Our home binder is a mustard + teal theme because THAT IS AWESOME, so my printables are in the same color theme, but I did give you some choices on your covers! You can snag the .PSD version if you’ve got Adobe PS and want to type in your last name, or print the blank .PNG file to write yours in if you don’t!
On each adult bio page, I keep updated photos. I also keep fingerprints. This may sound silly, but this way should the unthinkable ever happen to a loved one, I can give these to the right officials so we can do all that is needed for the situation – especially missing kiddos. On the pet page, as weird as this sounds, I keep a small hair clipping in an airtight ziplock bag (the small kind you can grab at Walmart in the jewelry making section). Why? Because if our pet were to go missing and we wanted to hire scent hounds, they need the pet’s scent and it can’t be from something shared by another pet or the scent hound can’t work. So before our pups get haircuts, we grab a hair snippet for safe-keeping. If you aren’t The Crazy Dog Lady that I clearly am, feel free to skip this – or use a piece of cloth rubbed all over your pets’ fur instead and replace annually. This also isn’t a bad idea for kiddos either. I’d rather seem OCD than wish I’d done it if any family member turned up missing!
Print as many as you need – Important Contacts, Financial Information, Insurance Information!
Each item goes into a regular sheet protector to keep it safe – and I used Avery Return Address Labels to label each sheet protector or envelope, as highlighted below. This allows me to easily remove items when I need them and remember exactly where they went – and what is missing (for when I create giant paperwork messes…. shh). I also nabbed these binder envelopes to house each tax year so nothing slips loose and other items, such as diamond certification/appraisals on my wedding rings, etc! I originally used Avery Business Card holders for the security cards & other business cards, but they’re a little snug for the SS cards, so I’m probably going to upgrade to these. Examples from our binder below!