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Document Locator System: A Handy Aid For Keeping Track Of Your Records

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Are you able to locate insurance contracts, wills, and other important personal records quickly and easily? With this simple document locator system, you no longer need to wonder where to file a paper or where to find it.

Table of Contents


The Document Locator System

Most people have no idea where to start searching for their important records. They usually keep them scattered in various locations – tax records in a file cabinet, savings bonds in a home safe, wills at an attorney’s office, some contracts or deeds in a bank safe deposit box.

There’s a reason many people do not have an organized recordkeeping system: Organizing your records is stressful and confusing.

The Document Locator System is effective because it takes away that stress and confusion. This simple recordkeeping system provides an easy way to keep track of your important personal (not business) records, keeping them organized and available. You will not miss out on a tax deduction because you did not keep the necessary receipt. More importantly, the document locator system will help a spouse or executor locate your documents in case of death or disability.

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Set Up Tabbed Sections

Set up tabbed sections in your files with the following captions (customizing sections as appropriate to your particular situation):

  1. Banking
  2. Children
  3. Credit and Loans
  4. Employment
  5. Estate Planning [including wills and post-mortem matters]
  6. Important Personal
  7. Insurance
  8. Investments
  9. Major Assets
  10. Professional Residences
  11. Tax Records
  12. Vehicles [including boats]

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File the Documents

File the documents and other records listed in Column 1 in the file sections recommended in Column 2 of the Document Locator. Where the original or a copy is filed elsewhere, note this location in Column 3 of the Document Locator. You can also use Column 3 for any notes regarding the document (such as Passport – “Renew by October 12, 2022” or IRA – “Take first distribution by December 31, 2022”). Where your filing system suggests a file section other than that recommended in Column 2, just substitute your location for the recommended one. For items other than those named here, use the blank spaces at the end of the Locator.

This Document Locator is shown at the end of this Financial Guide.

Put a photocopy of the Document Locator, which will contain the locations of all your important documents, in a fireproof safe or safe deposit box.

In addition to the Document Locator System, prepare a post-mortem letter to a spouse or executor. This is also an essential part of helping your heirs and family members get your affairs in order in the event of death or disability. The purpose of such a letter is to provide them with the information needed to locate records or assets. This will prevent erosion of your estate by unnecessary taxes, unfounded claims, or just plain loss of assets.

The key is to develop and follow some type of recordkeeping system, not necessarily the one recommended here. If you have any questions, contact your financial advisor.

Cull your records every so often. By getting rid of the papers you no longer need, you minimize the ever-encroaching mountains of paper we all have to handle.

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Documents You Should Be Able To Locate Easily

Certain documents, records, and other information should be easily locatable in an emergency. These include (1) your personal records, (2) a list of your assets, (3) your estate planning records, and (4) your financial records.

Personal Records

  • Birth certificates of family members
  • Death certificates of deceased family members
  • Marriage license
  • Divorce decree and custody agreement (if divorced)
  • Passports (updated)
  • Social Security numbers for family members
  • The names and addresses of family members, close relatives, and any persons mentioned in a will
  • Military records
  • List of previous employers
  • List of government employers
  • Medical records and health insurance cards for family members

In most cases, the reason these documents are needed is self-explanatory.

List of Your Assets

  • Description of all major assets that you own separately or jointly with your spouse or other person, together with the approximate values and location of deeds, titles, stock certificates, or other evidence of ownership.

Include cash, realty, investments, IRAs, retirement plan benefits, life insurance policies, interests in partnerships or other business entities, jewelry and other luxury items, automobiles, boats, antiques, coin collections, collectibles, art objects, and debts owed to you by others.

  • Appraisals of valuable items
  • Description of the approximate amounts of pension, military, and/or other benefits you or your spouse may be entitled to on retirement or death
  • Insurance policies (including group life, individual life, health, casualty, auto, etc.) and identity and phone numbers of insurance agents

Estate Planning Records

  • The whereabouts of your will and codicils, along with the name and address of the attorney who prepared them
  • Title to cemetery plot or other burial arrangement
  • Post-mortem letter to spouse or family members, to be opened after your death
  • Living will or other directions in case of disability

Financial and Other Records

  • Location of all safe deposit boxes, keys, and passwords
  • Important canceled checks
  • The names and addresses of your CPA, attorney, and any other professionals concerned with your financial affairs
  • Photographic or video record of house and its contents (for homeowners’ insurance purposes)
  • One statement for each bank account, IRA, mutual fund, broker, or other account you own, along with the name and telephone number of the primary banker, broker, or other contact person for each account
  • Brokers’ confirmation slips for purchases
  • A statement or other reference for any bank account that is not in your name
  • One statement or payment stub for each credit card, line of credit, or outstanding loan
  • Income tax returns for at least six prior years (including all supporting records for the past six years), and all prior gift tax returns
  • Records showing the original cost of any realty owned, cost of all improvements that can be added to tax basis, and depreciation taken (for business or rental property)
  • Bills of sale or receipts for major items
  • Equipment and appliance manuals and warranty information

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Where to File What

Document Locator
Accident reportsInsurance 
Adoption recordsImportant Personal and/or Children 
Address bookImportant Personal 
Alimony recordsTax Records 
Apartment – records forResidences 
AntiquesMajor Assets 
Appliances – receipts, warranties, and contracts forMajor Assets 
Appraisals of assetsMajor Assets 
Assets – list ofMajor Assets 
AttorneyProfessionals and/or Estate Planning 
Auto insuranceVehicles and/or Insurance 
Auto loansCredit and Loans 
Auto mileage logsTax Records 
Automobile titleVehicles 
Bank account statementsBanking 
Bills of saleMajor Assets 
Birth certificatesImportant Personal and/or Children 
Boat insuranceInsurance 
Boat recordsVehicles 
Broker account statementsInvestments 
Business interestsInvestments 
Canceled checks – generalBanking 
Canceled checks – insuranceInsurance 
Canceled checks – tax relatedTax Records 
Casualty loss recordsInsurance 
CDBanking and/or Investments 
Cemetery plotEstate Planning 
Charitable giftsTax Records 
Checking account statementsBanking 
Child support papersImportant Personal and/or Children 
Claims – insuranceInsurance 
Coin collectionMajor Assets 
CollectionsMajor Assets 
Confirmation slips – from brokerInvestments 
Credit cards – list ofCredit and Loans 
Credit card statementsCredit and Loans 
Credit report – from credit reporting agencyCredit and Loans 
Credit union papersBanking and/or Credit and Loans 
Custody agreementImportant Personal and/or Children 
Day care recordsChildren 
Death benefitsEmployment 
Death certificateImportant Personal 
Debts owed to youInvestments 
Debts you oweCredit and Loans 
Deeds to homesResidences 
Disability insuranceInsurance 
Dividends – records ofInvestments 
Divorce decreeImportant Personal 
Dues – professional or unionTax Records 
Employee benefits – description ofEmployment 
Employers – list ofEmployment 
Equipment – business use ofTax Records 
Equipment – warranties forMajor Assets 
ExpensesTax Records 
Fees – deductibleTax Records 
Financial statement – your personalCredit and Loans 
Forms – taxTax Records 
Funeral arrangementsEstate Planning 
FursMajor Assets 
Gifts – taxableTax Records 
Government employers – list ofEmployment 
Health insuranceInsurance 
Home – contents of, photographic recordsInsurance 
Home officeTax Records 
Home improvementsResidences 
Inherited property – record of basisResidences 
Insurance policiesInsurance 
Interest – record ofResidences and/or Tax Records 
JewelryMajor Assets 
K-1 FormsTax Records 
Safe deposit box keysBanking 
LawyersProfessionals and/or Estate Planning 
Lease – homeResidences 
License – driver’sVehicles 
Life insurance policiesInsurance 
Limited partnership documentsInvestments 
List of assetsMajor Assets 
List of automobilesVehicles 
List of bank accountsBanking 
List of brokerage accountsInvestments 
List of children’s schoolsChildren 
List of credit cardsCredit and Loans 
List of debtsCredit and Loans 
List of employers – government and privateEmployers 
List of home improvementsResidences 
List of life insurance policiesInsurance 
List of safe deposit boxesBanking 
Living willImportant Personal 
Loans – list ofCredit and Loans 
Maintenance of appliancesMajor Assets 
Marriage certificateImportant Personal 
Medical expensesTax Records 
Medical professionalsProfessionals 
Mileage logs – expensesTax Records 
Military dischargeImportant Personal 
Military employersEmployment 
Mortgage noteResidences 
Mortgage payments and yearly statementResidence and/or Tax Records 
Moving expenseTax Records 
Mutual fundsInvestments 
Naturalization papersImportant Personal 
Owner’s manualsVehicles and/or Major Assets 
Partnership statementsTax Records 
PassportsImportant Personal 
Paycheck stubsEmployment 
PetsImportant Personal 
Pension benefits – descriptionEmployment 
Photos of family membersImportant Personal 
Photos of home contentsInsurance 
Properties owned – list ofResidences 
Property damage – recordsInsurance 
Real estate ownedResidences 
Real estate taxesResidences and/or Tax Records 
Rent – records ofResidences 
Residence closing – records ofResidences 
Retirement accountsInvestments 
Safe deposit boxesBanking 
Savings accountsBanking 
Schools – list ofChildren 
Service – militaryEmployment and/or Important Personal 
Social Security numbersImportant Personal 
Stock certificatesInvestments 
Survivors’ benefits-descriptionsEmployment 
Tax returns and formsTax Records 
Traffic ticketsVehicles 
Titles to vehiclesVehicles 
Travel expensesTax Records 
Trust documentsEstate Planning 
Unemployment compensationEmployment 
Vacation homeResidences 
W-2 formsTax Records 
WarrantiesMajor Assets 
WillsEstate Planning 

Going through a very NASTY divorce Michelle Sunseri and her staff were super caring, helpful, sincere, trustworthy,and honest. They really went the extra mile. I highly recommend.

Annette Guder Lissgoogle

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