Protecting Your Household’s Vital Information
Protecting your home can mean a lot of different things. Whether it’s from fire, theft, or natural disasters, safeguarding your sensitive documents is a large part of protecting your family’s well-being.
However, properly guarding your legal, medical, and financial information is more than just keeping track of your money in the bank or storing important papers in a random drawer; it means making sure these documents are up to date, completed correctly, and easily accessible.
Without official, notarized documents, it can be difficult—if not impossible—to conduct any legal business. Since these types of documents are so important, be sure they are kept in a place that family members can access in case of an emergency. Examples of this type of documentation include:
- Vital records like birth, marriage, or divorce certificates, and adoption or child-custody papers
- Copies of driver’s licenses or any other valid government IDs
- Social Security or green cards
- Military-service identification papers
- Pet ownership papers and ID tags
- Car registrations, VINs, and titles
Estate documents are crucial to making sure your medical and financial wishes are carried out. For example, do you have someone who will act as your power of attorney in the event you cannot act on your own behalf? This can financially and legally impact your estate if you have not assigned anyone. So be sure the following are ironclad for your protection:
- Estate-planning documents and trusts
- Your last will and testament and living will
- Power of attorney for financial, medical, and legal purposes
Banking and Financials
Your banking information should be clear and concise. If you have a safety-deposit box, who will have access to it? If you have automatic payments, who will know how to cancel them and put your accounts on hold if you are suddenly unable? Make sure you have thorough records of the following:
- Banking, checking, and savings accounts
- Debit and credit cards
- Retirement and investment accounts
- Mortgage or home equity line of credit
- Student loans
- Car loans
- Alimony and child support payments
- Deed, title, and survey for all real estate holdings
Insurance and Medical
Insurance policies and medical coverage are fluid—at any given time, an insurer can choose to alter your benefits. And because most states are required to send you notification of any changes, it’s critical that you frequently review your policy. When it comes to your insurance and medical policies, you should:
- Evaluate your life insurance policy, and be sure the coverage matches your needs in case the unexpected happens.
- Keep all health records, medical bills, and insurance policies in one place should they need to be quickly accessed.
- Compile an updated contact list of doctors, all medications being taken, and pharmacy information.
- Keep accurate immunization records for you and your children.
Establishing an emergency fund for your family can serve as a financial cushion in case an emergency arises. The Federal Reserve has reported that roughly 68 percent of American adults would be able to cover $400 in cash for unforeseen expenses. However, most experts recommend saving enough money to cover your expenses for three to six months. Even if it’s just a small amount, try to put money away each month to give yourself some protection.
Passwords and Copied Documents
Always make extra copies of your most sensitive documents and store them in a safe at home or at your bank. Be sure to have instructions, keys, external hard drives or flash drives, and all passwords readily available if you become unable to share this information; be sure a family member or close friend knows where and how to access it. Also, there are websites, such as trustworthy.com, which organizes and protects your private information, that you can use to help with family management. With modern technology, once you digitize your data you will be able to access it anywhere.
Don’t underestimate the importance of safeguarding your personal, legal, and financial documents—doing so can help protect you and your loved ones in the future.