How To Reduce Paper Clutter and Keep Records Of Important Papers

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by Marilyn Bohn

You have heard the saying, “Two things in life are certain: paying taxes and dying.” Neither is pleasant to think about but if we don’t want to leave our heirs with a lot of paper clutter and extra expense and headaches there are certain things we need to get in order.One of the best and most appreciated gifts we can leave our family is our financial information and where to find important documents. Create a record of where you have your important papers and place this in your filing system. In my filing system I have created a file that says death benefits. It is clearly labeled and easy to find.

Without financial and legal facts heirs can spend months and hundreds of dollars in fees tracking down financial accounts, legal papers, and relevant individuals essential in your life.
As a professional organizer I recommend you gather financial records together for the use of your heirs and for your own use.

  1. Your advisors: List the names, addresses and telephone numbers of your insurance agent, tax preparer, attorney, executor and any other key financial people in your life.
  2. Your debts: List credit card numbers and issuers’ addresses and telephone numbers, information on outstanding home, auto or personal loans. Include loan numbers, terms, balances and the addresses and phone numbers of lenders.
  3. Your insurances: Include location of the policies, all insurers, addresses and telephone numbers, policy numbers, amounts, and beneficiaries. Include pre-paid funeral plans. If there are coverage’s attached to credit cards, or loans include these.
  4. Your legal papers: Record the location of your will and trust, tax returns, Social Security cards, birth, marriage certificates, military papers, passports, deeds and mortgages, leases and car titles, business or donor agreements and rights held.
  5. Your savings and investments: Name every financial institution where you have money. Include their addresses, account names and numbers. State the location of passbooks, stock, bond, mutual fund, and retirement documents.
  6. Your safe deposit box: Record where it is, where the keys are, whose name it is in and who has access. Write an inventory of its contents.
  7. Other: List self-storage facilities you are renting, where the keys are kept or the combinations of locks. Information on cemetery plots.
  8. Computer stored information: Identify relevant computer and stored electronic files and transactions which you haven’t listed in printed forms. Write down the required passwords to access this information. These must be kept in a safe place and it is best to code them. Let someone know what the code is so they can access your files yet the passwords are kept safe.

After collecting all of these documents and recording where they are kept, keep one copy in your home. I recommend keeping it in your filing drawer in a clearly marked file. Periodically it is necessary to update this record.Give copies to a trusted relative, friend, attorney, and executor. Do not put your only copy of your record in your safety deposit box. Your family needs easy access to this record. If your family can’t find the key to your box and no one else has one, they will need to call the bank. By presenting a certified copy of the death certificate and picture ID, the bank can, for a fee, drill the box open. How easily all of that can be avoided by following the steps above.If you don’t have a system to get rid of paper clutter now is the time to start. By simply gathering these important documents and recording where they are kept is a step in the right direction. It will bring you and your family peace of mind.

Marilyn Bohn is the owner of Get it Together Organizing, a business dedicated to developing practical organizing solutions that help individuals and business professionals live clutter-free and productive lives. She is the author of “Go Organize! Conquer Clutter in Three Simple Steps” and is an experienced, enthusiastic public speaker, a member of NAPO (National Association of Professional Organizers) and the author of hundreds of articles covering various organizing topics. Marilyn takes the often stressful subject of organizing and breaks it down into a simple, easy to understand system. Her methods are both eye-opening and encouraging! She has a passion for helping others reach their personal goals and living a better, clutter-free life! Marilyn offers personal, private consulting to assist in organizing and she invites you to sign up for free organizing tips at her website http://www.marilynbohn.com/ for easy organizing.

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