Are all your important personal records easy to locate?

Personal records of Investments, Insurance Policies, Bank Accounts, Wills, Licenses all the way down to the contact information of your lawn maintenance guy are a very important set of documents in your life.

If you suddenly become temporarily or permanently impaired (or it happens to the person who has a better handle on your affairs), how are you, or they, going to handle things now if records are not easy to find?

Executors and Enduring Powers of Attorney face a daunting task if the location of financial assets and important papers is not thoroughly documented.

RBC’s estate experts, in their capacity as executors, have learned to become good “detectives”.

In some cases, the bank has had to take possession of the deceased’s computer and hire experts to search the hard drive to find crucial information about personal records. All this is time consuming and very costly.

For The Record!

Creating a central record of all your important documents and information does take time and effort. However, it will ensure that your affairs will be wrapped up in an efficient and quick manner.

It should include the location of your Will as well as the details of your Power of Attorney and Personal Directive.

The next step is to ensure that each document noted in your central record is properly indexed to it's actual physical location.

This will avoid someone having to search through filing cabinets and small boxes that may or may not hold the vital information.

Important papers

Locating the correct documents in shoe boxes can be challenging to say the least.

A properly indexed filing cabinet can make the job so much easier.

The central record should also reference details and location life of:- home and car insurance policies; real estate documents; ownership documents for cars, boats, recreational and other vehicles and; authentication papers for significant assets such as valuable art or antiques.

Important too are:- the last two years tax returns; the name and location of banks and other financial institutions you have accounts with; contact information for your accountant, tax preparer, lawyer, financial adviser and; information regarding your planned or pre-paid funeral.

Don't forget to list club and association memberships, ongoing charitable donations and subscriptions so that these can be cancelled.

Note the location of any safety deposit boxes and where the keys are located.

Itemize any pre-authorised payments that are flowing through your bank accounts, such as condo fees or credit card or bill payments.

Tools and Resources for a Binder

The Canadian Life and Health insurance Association Inc. has developed a free online tool called Virtual Shoebox. Here's the link:- 'Virtual Shoebox'

This will provide you with an extensive list of items to record from loyalty cards to passwords and pin numbers and the location of all personal records.

You can use this tool to record everything securely on-line. However, if you prefer not to have this information in cyberspace, create a binder.

Once you have completed your central record binder, remember to note any changes you make to your financial or personal assets throughout the year.

A good idea is to have a three ring, loose leaf binder. That way if you need to change some information on a page, you can simply replace that single page.

Fill one out for yourself and get your partner, your elderly parent or anyone else you think could need one to fill one out too.

Get them to keep theirs updated as well and don't forget to ask them where they keep it if you need to know.

If this seems too large a task, perhaps you can make this a New Year’s resolution and revisit your binder at the beginning of each year to ensure that your information about your personal records is current.

Our downloadable and printable ‘Record of Personal and Financial Affairs' is a great start to make sure you have included all the necessary items. Here's the link:- Record of Personal and Financial Affairs

If you've taken on the role of executor or attorney for someone, wouldn't it be great if they have filled one out?

Now you'll be able to find all the paper trails in one location and you won't be looking all over the place for information.

Finally, any documents you have prepared must be kept in a safe place. Con artists and fraudsters would be very keen to get their hands on them.

If the documents become lost or stolen, take immediate steps to protect yourself by advising relevant authorities including your bank, credit card company and insurer.