Updating Your Important Papers

  • Posted on: 25 August 2021
  • By: David Trammel

How many times have you needed some important paperwork, say a car title, military discharge papers, high school diploma for a job interview and had to turn the office or home upside down look for it? I have and its a lot too. While we may not like that fact so much of our Life's critical information is stored on bits of fragile paper, the fact it is, and we need to have it organized and available. If the pandemic has taught me one thing, its that.

Time to get yourself organized.

Let's first talk about WHERE you need to keep these papers.

You naturally want to keep them in a safe and secure location in your home. A small safe is a good option. Not because anyone might steal these, though a smart burglar knows that your personal information can be sold just as profitably as your jewelry or tv. One of those small home safes has the added advantage in that they are rated to survive most house fires intact.

By the way, if you get one, tell all your family and some trusted friends. That way if you are in no condition to tell them, they will know. In addition consider making copies of all of this information, and leaving it at a trusted friend's home. Your executor is a good choice, since they will need the information in the event of an emergency.

The originals should be in the safe, but consider having a binder of copies of all of this, kept next to the front door to be grabbed in the event you have to leave in a hurry. Get a binder that is unusual in color so you can remember it, or tell someone which one to grab in a hurry. You should also scan and digitally copy this info to a CD, or Flash drive. Place copies of that CD or drive with the physical binders and in the safe.

Now for what information you need to gather:

First, Estate and Heirs Info:
1) Last Will and Testament. (if you are dead), as well as any Trusts you have set up.

2) Power of Attorney (if you aren't dead but are incapacitated)

3) Advance Directives for the Care and Disposition of Your Children - This sets out who you want to be guardian of your children and their estate. When you fill this out, TALK to your children so they know your wishes and can tell you theirs. Also their birth certificates and adoption records if applicable. I would highly recommend a set of good color photos of each child and spouse.

4) Directive for the Disposition of your Pets. Microchip Identification information and again, good color photos, including at least a couple of you in the photo with the pet. Vaccination Records for them as well.

5) Names, addresses, phone numbers and email addresses of close friends and relatives.

Second, Personal Information:
6) Photocopies of your Drivers License (front and back).

7) Passports.

8) Birth Certificates, Social Security Card, Marriage Licenses.

9) Military service records.

10) High School and College diplomas too. Any other schooling or state business licenses.

11) Contact info for your church, copies of baptism certificates or other religious documents.

Third, Medical Directives and Information:
12) List of blood types, and any allergies or issues that might affect treatment for each family member.

13) Medical Power of Attorney, including end of life decisions and whether you want your organs or body donated.

14) Contact information for your family doctors, any specialists as well as dentists.

15) Your medical insurance information and contact numbers for the insurance company. Copies of your medical records are helpful too. Include information on any prescriptions you are on, pharmacies you are using, and your Covid vaccination card/dates if you have it.

16) Burial Information: Where you want to be buried and how. Any plots you've paid for in advance. Who speaks, who get invited. You should consider who you chose for these roles and whether that have gotten vaccinated. They might be in the hospital with you if they are a close friend.

17) Life Insurance policies

Fourth, Financial Information and Property:
18) Where you have bank accounts to. Photocopy the front and back of any debt cards you have.

19) Information on your home mortgage (who it is with) or information on your landlord (if you rent).

20) Car Titles (or titles for other large item, like Boats, motorcycles, vacation cabins, etc.). Maintenance records as well in case you have an issue with the insurance claims.

21) Firearms serial numbers and descriptions. Copies of any permits or Carry Concealed Weapons licenses.

22) Copies of your last month's utility bills so people can pay your bills and keep the lights on. This includes any local memberships like gym or video store.

23) Photos of your Home and ones of each room in it. Close up photos of anything of high value, like antiques or artwork. Receipts for major purchase will help with claims. Copies of any appraisals as well.

Miscellaneous Important Stuff
24) Contact information for your next door neighbors. They may have information in the event of an emergency or can be asked to watch the home while you are in the hospital.

25) Website memberships and account information, including passwords and any website you have reoccurring paid subscriptions (Netflix, etc): I find that a small address book, available from stationary stores, are a great way to keep this information. You can enter websites by name and then add passwords. Helpful even if you aren't dead, lol.

(Might want to clean up any embarrassing personal things in that back closet and delete your browser history, lol.)


Any suggestions for other important information that you might need if you aren't there?


We keep the originals in our safety deposit box.
We've also got a "Go-Box" with duplicates of everything in case we have to evacuate in a hurry.
Then there's the freezer. You can store papers, flat, in a freezer Ziploc bag. The freezer will survive a fire, even if the contents turn to mush. Your papers will remain safe.

It's very important to keep duplicates. Plenty of people whose banks got flooded during massive storms lost their home copies as well as their safety deposit box contents.

As a reminder to all you writers, musicians, and artists: put your creative endeavors in your will. Life plus seventy means that your heirs can still make $$ of your efforts but only if they hold title to them. Your will takes care of this issue.