The familiar refrain of:  “I’ll get to it before I die,” can often be applied to our personal record keeping.  We all know it is important, it can simplify things in the future, yet it is almost never a top priority.

On a recent trip to Disney World, I came across a very special box that was titled the Ultimate Financial File. It was appropriately located between Fantasy Land and Tomorrow Land. Unfortunately, I did not have time to view its contents. However, the discovery of the box inspired me to create a list of the documents that should be included in the Ultimate Financial File.

It would have the following:

  1. Will(s)
  2. Trust(s)
  3. Powers of Attorney (Health Care and Property)
  4. Health Care Directives (e.g. Living Will)
  1. Birth Certificate(s)
  2. Marriage License
  3. Divorce papers
  4. Pre-nuptial agreement
  1. Doctors’ contact information
  2. Bills and EOB’s from current treatments until final payments are made
  1. Deed
  2. Closing documents from home purchase
  3. Mortgage Documents (refinancing paperwork and mortgage statement with current payee listed)
  4. Receipts/invoices from major remodeling and improvement projects
  5. Property tax bills
  1. Policies
  2. Annuity details
  3. Agent contact information
  1. Policies
  2. Agent contact information
  1. Company benefit plan statements and contact information
  2. Self-employed retirement accounts (Keogh, SEP, etc.)
  3. IRA statements
  4. Form 5498 documenting tax basis in IRAs (updated annually)
  5. Social Security benefit statements
  1. Investment Policy Statement
  2. Brokerage account statements
    (NOTE: Stock certificates and bonds should be stored in a safe deposit box)
  3. Checking and savings account information
  4. Financial advisor contact information
  1. Car titles (copy – the original should be stored in a safe deposit box)
  2. Car loan details
  3. Boat/Plane/Motorcycle/R.V./etc. titles and related loan documents (copy – the original titles should be stored in a safe deposit box)
  4. Cemetery plot deeds and pre-paid funeral details
  5. Collections (e.g. coins, stamps, etc.) details (inventory lists and valuations)
  1. Breeding papers
  2. Medical records
  1. Key and box number
  2. Bank location
  1. Business ownership interests
  2. Loan documents
  1. Income tax returns for prior five years
  2. Estate tax returns
  1. User names and passwords should be kept on paper in a safe deposit box and should be updated annually
  2. Websites used for financial matters (e.g. banking, investing, credit card payments, etc.) should be kept on a list
  1. Contact information for the alarm company
  2. Manual for resetting the system
  1. Initial credit card agreements with terms
  2. Copy of a recent statement with payment address and contact information

All of us should endeavor to make our files as complete as possible and I encourage you to use this list as a reference. If you know that you have all the documents on the list and you know their current location, you should congratulate yourself. If you have all the documents and you do not know where they are, make 2012 the year in which you find them and file them in an orderly fashion. If you do not have the documents or do not remember if you have the documents, then 2012 can be the year in which you complete your planning and improve your documentation.

In determining whether to keep a document in your files at home or in a safe deposit box, ask yourself this question: If the document was destroyed or stolen, would I be able to replace it? If the answer is no, it needs to be in a safe deposit box.

I encourage everyone to work toward completing their own Ultimate Financial File and avoid having their planning and documents drift away to Never Never Land. Remember that working with Oak Wealth Advisors is a collaborative process. If you think there are additional items that should be included in the list above, please let me know.

This update is intended for the use of Oak Wealth Advisors LLC clients. This update should not be viewed as personalized investment or financial planning advice from Oak Wealth Advisors LLC. To the extent that a reader has any questions regarding the applicability of any specific issue discussed above to their individual situation, they are encouraged to consult Oak Wealth Advisors LLC. Past performance does not guarantee future results and all investments should be scrutinized before being implemented in a portfolio.