Record of Important Papers

Personal Finance March 21, 2008 Print Friendly and PDF

You conduct a variety of business transactions, many of which require supportive records. Birth certificates, proof of ownership, location of property, income tax returns, savings and investment records, insurance policies, guarantees, and warranties are probably among your important papers. These are but a few of the important records needed to operate your home in a business-like way.

Some records should be kept in home files; others should be kept in a safer place such as a home safe, safe deposit box (available at a bank or credit union) or a lawyer’s office. Where you keep your papers will depend partly on how often you use them. Some records are needed frequently; others are needed only at special times. Family members should know whom to contact for financial advice in case of an emergency. A trusted lawyer, banker, or insurance agent who is familiar with your finances can be helpful in case of a death or other emergency.

To help you organize your important papers, print a copy and review the sections of the forms below, analyze each section and fill in the blanks; add sheets as needed. Your personal information can be entered into the Record of Important Papers interactive form (available in rtf format) and saved on your computer hard drive. After studying your important papers and analyzing your business affairs, you will know whether you need to see a banker, lawyer, or insurance agent to help put and keep your affairs in order. You may also find the information valuable for estate planning. Revise as needed to keep information up-to-date.

When the forms are complete, put them in a safe place. You may wish to keep a duplicate in a safe-deposit box or a fireproof, waterproof, and burglar-proof home safe. Update the information annually. For more information on what records to keep, why, where, and how long each should be kept, see Organize Your Important Papers.


Plan Ahead

Taking time to organize your important papers and records may be the best investment you ever made. It is important for all responsible members of the household and designated family members who live elsewhere to know where papers or records are kept and who to turn contact for advice in case of an emergency. Planning ahead by completing these forms can save time, stress and money if an emergency should arise or a death occur.

Use the forms below as part of a family record book kept in a loose-leaf notebook or home files. Keep a duplicate copy of these forms in your safe-deposit box or home safe. If you'd like to fill out these forms online, go to the Record of Important Papers interactive form.

As a result of terrorist and flood disasters, authorities recommend placing an additional copy of important papers in a geographic location some distance from your home or safe deposit box. Ask a trusted family member or friend who lives in another area of the country to store a copy.

Family Records

Family member name Birth date Location of birth certificate* Social Security number Location of Social Security card number*

*Because of the threat of identity theft, carry your Social Security card only when needed for employment and to register for benefits. Keep your Social Security card number and birth certificates in a safe-deposit box at a financial institution or in a fireproof, waterproof, and burglar-proof home safe.

Important Advisors and Contacts

Type Name Address Telephone or email address

Personal Representative of my will

Personal Representative of will for spouse/partner

Religious adviser

Primary care doctor

Other doctors:


Accountant or tax adviser

Stockbroker/Investment adviser

Banker or trust officer(s)

Employer or personnel manager

Business manager or business partner

Life insurance agent

Home insurance agent

Auto insurance agent

Child/adult care provider

Neighbor or close friend



Guardian of children

Children’s school contacts


Type Owner(s) Type of ownership Date acquired Location/description Location title/ownership information* Additional information
Real estate: Residence(s)



Cemetery plot(s)

Motor vehicle(s)


* Store titles, leases, and other important ownership information in a safe-deposit box or fireproof, waterproof and burglar-proof home safe.

Banking, Savings, and Investments

Additional information (if applicable)
Type Financial institution/ company Address/ telephone Owner Location of records I.D. # Beneficiary Price/
Dates (purchase, maturity, etc.)
Checking account/s

Savings account/s

Money market account(s)

Bonds, treasury bills, etc.

Stocks, mutual funds, investment trusts, etc.

Individual Retirement Accounts, Keogh accounts, SEPs

Retirement plans, pensions, etc.


*Savings and investment certificates, bonds, bills, and other evidence of ownership (financial records difficult or costly to replace, or that could be transferred illegally in case of loss or theft) should be kept in a safe-deposit box or fireproof, waterproof, and burglar-proof home safe. Monthly statements and substitute or cancelled checks or their images, which generally can be replaced, can be kept in a home business center, file drawer, desk, etc.

Insurance (Life, Health, Disability, Homeowner's/Renter's, Auto, etc.)

Additional information (if applicable)
Type Company and address Policy # Location of policy* Primary beneficiary Contingent beneficiary Policy owner Person/

Cards (Credit, Debit, ATM, Smart, etc.)

If lost or stolen, notify*
Type In name of Account # Company/institution Address Telephone

*Carry only the credit card(s) you regularly use in your purse or wallet.

Debt Information

Type Company/person and address Total $$
Payment amount
and date
Location of
What we owe:

What others owe us:

*Keep important contracts, notes, liens, and evidence of debt payments in a safe deposit box or fireproof, waterproof, and burglar-proof home safe.

Membership in Organizations/Clubs*

Membership information
Name of
Address Telephone In whose name Number

*Carry membership cards used on a regular basis in your purse or wallet.

Other Important Records

Group Kind of paper or record Location Additional information
Adoption papers

Baptismal records

Titles and bills of sale

Citizenship/naturalization papers

Death certificates


Divorce/separation papers

Durable powers of attorney

Easements/rights of way

Health records (with blood type)

Household inventory

Irreplaceable receipts (proof of tax deductions)

Living will

Marriage certificates

Military records





Return toWhat to Organize/Keep. Title will be changed to What Important Household Papers to Organize and Keep
Group Kind of paper or record Location Additional information
Appraisals: collections/antiques/jewelry/other

Cemetery plot/records

Computer passwords (copy)

Education records

Employment records

Family history

Household inventory (copy)

Income/expense records

Income tax returns

Funeral plan documents/instructions

Legal appointments for others (i.e. power of attorney, executor/trix of will)

Letter of last instructions

Living will (copy)

Medical records

Net worth statements

Safe-deposit box inventory

Warranties/appliance manuals

Will (copy)

Employee ID card

Identity card/whom to notify

Insurance /medical cards

Organ donor card

OTHER Living will (copy at doctor's office)

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This work is supported by the USDA National Institute of Food and Agriculture, New Technologies for Ag Extension project.