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It is only when one experiences a scare, that one realises how important it is to keep your essential documents safely in one place and easily accessible. It is also important tell a friend or family member where they can be found if you are not around to do so.

I got an urgent call from Paula, “My personal papers are in a mess, please can we make a date to get them sorted.” During the free needs analysis I realised that due to circumstances, Paula had taken to placing loose papers in the once well organised lever arch files instead of punching and inserting them. She also wanted to have shelving put up in her pantry and sort through all her kitchen stuff. The day before the organising session I got a call from one of her friends to tell me that Paula’s husband had passed away.  A frantic Paula called again after a couple of days, this time really stressed as she couldn’t find the papers she needed for the executor of the will. We started looking through the files, slowly gathering the essential information but hours later still couldn’t lay our hands on her marriage certificate. After emptying the contents of the whole cupboard, we eventually found the marriage certificate all scrunched up in the bottom behind dusty boxes, but at least we found it!

Life changes constantly and you might find yourself in a state of transition, be it death, divorce, retiring or moving. Could you find your marriage certificate or insurance policies in an instant or are they scattered in drawers, files and photo albums? When your bag is stolen will you be able to produce the details for your bank cards or cell phone without having to work through piles of paper?

Take time to create a file with essential papers or order one were most the work is done already, here for only R335.

If you wish to compile your own Vital Records Folder, you’ll need a file, plastic sleeves, file dividers and label as you go. A3 format documents to be reduced to A4. All copied documents should be certified by a Commissioner of Oaths.

Gather all your important papers like:

  • Personal details: Id documents, Passports, Adoption Papers, Driver’s and Firearm licences, Will and Burial Wishes
  • Contact details: Doctors, Lawyer, Executor of the will, Tax consultant, Religious Affiliation, Vet
  • Medical: Medical Aid Details, Medical History
  • Financial Details: for all Bank Accounts, Stop orders, Debit Orders, Foreign Investments, and Annual Tax Returns. Keep a note with passwords and pin numbers for the different accounts. Keep a record of all you cards back and front. Place the cards on a photocopier screen, copy, and turn cards over, copy the back of the cards. Place in a plastic sleeve.
  • Account Details of retail stores and your cards
  • Educational Details: Certificates, CV, Testimonials, Restraints of trade
  • Insurance Details: Retirement Annuities, Pension Fund, UIF(Please note beneficiaries for Insurances)
  • Share and Unit Trust: Note where situated, amounts, conditions, beneficiaries.
  • Other Assets: Property (Stand number, Physical address, Bond, Lease, Rental); Vehicles (Proof of ownership, licence); Art & Antiques (Certificates, Numbers and photos), Jewellery (Valuation Certificates and photos).
  • Inventory of Assets Serial number, warranty, invoice attached, Cell phone PUK numbers.

Update your inventory of valuables on a regular basis for insurance or replacement. It is recommended that all valuables to be marked and photographed and kept. This would assist in insurance claims as well as in identification of recovered stolen items.

In the file make notes where the originals are kept and tell a friend or family member where to find the file should they ever need to access it. Update the file annually or as details change. Don’t forget that when travelling leave a copy of your passport, air ticket, ID, Credit Cards and Travellers cheque numbers with a responsible person who can deal with any crisis in the event of losing your bag or luggage, accident, illness or death. Downlaod a Checklist of  Documents needed by an Executor to assist you to collate the relevant documents for a fast and efficient settlement of the estate.

Consider buying your own safe, have a safety deposit box at your bank for storing your valuables and vital documents.

The time spent creating this file is worth the trouble and will spare the ones having to deal with your personal affairs when you are not around a lot of stress and hours of searching. Everyone has individual needs; you may find an aspect of your life that is not specified in this information.  Label an additional divider and file it in the appropriate section.

Compiling this file with all the vital documents will give you peace of mind in that all your important papers are in a central location and can be found when needed.

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