Organizing Your Important Documents: Family & Personal Information (Part 2)

Guest post from Mandy White

Now that you have all your necessary supplies, the next step is to start gathering all your information. Today, we’ll start with the first section of your binder: Family and Personal Information. This includes everything from phone numbers, to birth certificates, to estate documents. It is a lot of gathering and typing, but it is crucial to have this information readily available.

This is also the section to put any priceless letters or documents. I have a letter from my mom that she wrote to me when I was two years old. She died a few years ago, and this is a priceless treasure to me, so I keep it in my personal section.

NOTE: Please be sure to use a secure computer, or even hand-write things, as this is very sensitive information!

Whole Family Information

Marriage Certificate

Phone Numbers and Addresses

Note: Include any anyone that you frequently contact or would need to contact in an emergency. I split ours into two pages. The first is phone numbers that are important to our household (schools, doctor’s offices, etc.). The second is a sheet of extended family phone numbers and addresses (limited to our siblings and parents). I printed a second copy of both pages for the side of our refrigerator.

Individuals Information

Master Page: Create a master page for each family member that includes his or her full name, birth date, social security number, driver’s license number, and passport number. File each person’s individual documents in sheet protectors following the master page.

Birth Certificate

Social Security Card

Copy of Driver’s License

Passport

Any other individual documents (adoption records, military papers, transcripts, certifications, etc.)

Whole Family Medical

Medical, dental, and vision insurance information

Copies of insurance cards

Contact information for medical professionals, urgent care, hospital, and pharmacy

Individual Medical

Master Page: As before, create an information page for each person that includes his or her full name, birth date, medical conditions, drug allergies, and major surgeries/medical events. File individual medical documents in sheet protectors following each person’s master page.

Immunization Records

Any other medical papers or records

Personal Preparedness

Estate documents (wills, trust, etc.)

Note: We keep all of our estate documents together in a separate binder. If you choose to do the same, simply put a note in this section stating where the information can be found. Remember, this section isn’t for you; it is for those that will be left behind if something should happen to you.

Life Insurance

Life Insurance policy

Agent/company contact information

Due dates and amount due

Receipts

Funeral information, deeds for burial plots, etc.

Pets

Veterinarian contact information

Pet medical and vaccination records

Pet license and registration information

If you like, you may download a printable version of this index (for personal use only).

Come back tomorrow for the next section: Finances!

Mandy White is blessed to be a stay-at-home wife and mother. She and her amazing husband have three amazing kids. She loves to serve others, and her favorite time of year is fall. Unfortunately, in Arizona, fall doesn’t start until November!

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Comments

  1. Mike says

    Would be great if you could add an index to the top or bottom of each of these articles and update it as the rest get posted. Much easier to read the whole series in order that way.

    So far, great info. :)

      • beingjennifer says

        Maybe you could make “Come back tomorrow for the next section: Finances!” that’s at the bottom of the page a link to the 2nd post without it being a series. Just an idea. This is great stuff!

        • says

          I’ll do the techy stuff to set it up as a series tonight so that all the posts will be part of the series by tomorrow. I just have to go in and mess with some settings on my end — and there has to be a few posts already published before I can do that! :)

  2. Pamela says

    I wonder if you could please post several photos of binder that will helpful for us to see how it can be made for our families and I will def make the binders for me, my husband & my son this weekend. Thanks for sharing this awesome post with us and will look forward to print some more tomorrow! :-)

    • Mandy W. says

      I don’t have any photos of it – it is just a standard binder with dividers. The index goes in the front, and then everything just follows in order. I chose to keep ours altogether so that it would be easy to take with us in an emergency, but I have seen the suggestions of making one for each person, which would also work well.

      Hope that helps! Let me know if you have other questions.

    • Mandy W. says

      I posted a reply, but I think cyberspace ate it, so I apologize if it shows up later :)

      I am so glad you are excited! I don’t have pictures because it really is just a simple binder with tab dividers. Just go down the list, and put everything right in order, following the index at the bottom of the post. The index itself should go at the front. I, personally, kept everything in one notebook so that it would be easy to grab in an emergency, but I have seen in the comments where people have made separate ones for each family member. Do whatever works best for you and your family! This is all about making it work for you!

      • Pamela says

        Thank you Mandy W. for answer my question and hopefully we will have several pictures to add to this series for Crystal, just my thought. Thanks! :-)

        • Mandy W. says

          After consulting with Crystal, I snapped a couple of pictures, and they should be included in a couple of the future series posts :)

  3. Robin says

    As a newly married woman – I greatly thank you for this. Merging everything has been a disaster since his mother refuses to part ways with most of his ~important documents. But this gives me a starting point at knowing what we need and what I should go and get copies of. You = Life saver!

    • Mandy W. says

      I am glad to help! I would definitely recommend having your new husband nicely, but firmly, ask his mom for his documents. It is really important to have them accessible, and as long as you guys have a safe place for them, there is really no reason for her to hold on to them.

      • Robin says

        Thanks for the advice. We’ve politely asked a half a dozen times, and she isn’t budging. She’s also upset for us for not wanting to live with her, her husband, their other son, his wife and their son (her grandson) in their tiny 3 bedroom house! So I think she miiiiiiight have a problem letting go! But, that’s a whole different story! Haha.

        But thanks for this series!

        • Andrea says

          I know how you feel! It took 9 years to get my husband’s social security card from his Mom! We demanded it because we had to have it when we were refinancing our home (not sure why we didn’t need it to buy it to begin with). Have you tried going over and demanding it saying you need it for a specific reason?
          Good luck her! :)

    • Jane says

      Just so you know all the documents can be replaced without getting them from her if need be. My Dear sweet MIL (and I do mean that) misplaced my DH’s birth certificate, SS #, and baptismal records. You can get all of these replaced if need be. If she will not let them go circumvent her and just order new ones. The birth certificate and baptismal records may cost money to get but they are easy to get. And getting a new card would not be hard it just requires him going to SS office and filling out paperwork.
      DO NOT LIVE WITH THEM IF YOU CAN HELP IT.
      I married the baby (her baby) and though she is 86 yrs young and I find it to be my duty to take care of her now. The start of your marriage needs to be just you two. Good, bad or ugly that is how you forge your deepest bond together. Now I love my MIL she and I have been through a lot. I would not trade my time with her for anything. I also know that I would not trade my time with my DH 15 years ago scraping by and learning to be us. It has all made me a better wife, mother, friend, child of GOD and DIL.

      • Robin says

        I know they call all be replaced, I was just trying to avoid that. We’re going with the “have to have to get his licenses renewed” excuse and hoping she’ll part ways with them.

        And there is no way in the world I’m living with those people! I love my MIL dearly, but I can’t handle that many people. haha. I totally agree that the beginning of a marriage just needs to be the two of us. That’s how we helped her cope with him moving out in the first place. We were together 8 years (high school sweethearts) before getting married, you’d think she would of been prepared! And despite being together 8 years before hand marriage/living together is COMPLETELY different. It has definitely tested our relationship. But we’re learning and growing and sticking it out!

  4. says

    This is a great series, it’s great to have all the important stuff in one place. I would caution to keep this item put safely away. With so much personal information in it you would not want that to be picked up by the wrong person. A personal safe or lock box is a great idea!!!

  5. says

    Having a summary page for each category/person is definitely a great time-saver. I’m curious to see pictures of your binder.

    The important documents for my family of 5 are organized in 3 accordion files: 1 – personal documents (credit reports/card, personal, home ownership, and vehicles), 2 – insurance documents (personal, life, major medical, tax-favored programs, prescriptions, dental and vision, and special health policies), and 3 – investing and retirement (social security, retirement, investments, estate planning, and tax records).

    Not sure how many more posts you have in this series, but I’m loving the organization. Accordion files don’t work for everyone, so this binder system might help my readers. Thanks for posting.

  6. says

    I am really happy to have you doing this series I don’t know if I can keep up each day with the series but I will definitely be doing one of these binders for our home.

    • Mandy W. says

      I know the series goes pretty fast, but the index is set up so that you can work on one section each day. If you do that, it will take about a month to put the whole thing together, but at least it will get done!

      I’m glad it will help you out!

  7. Christine says

    Do not rely solely on storing important docs and photos in just one format.
    My home was robbed in May including laptop which had important docs & precious family photos scanned in. Thankfully I still had original paper files in hidden fireproof box. photos however are gone forever. I recommend storing duplicate files of any kind on a disk or thumb drive that is stored in 2 safe locations (safety deposit, somewhere in home). Scan to disk/drive yourself, using kinko’s puts your info on their machine’s hd which is accessible by anyone.
    Don’t keep any identifying data, address book, receipts, checkbook in your desk, nor jewelry in your bureau, prescriptions in bureau or medicine cabinet, anything under mattress.
    Video game consoles and cartridges, hide v. leave in kid’s room or plain site.
    Check out preyproject.com to track and disable your cell phone and computer if stolen 100% free.
    You’re neighborhood like mine may be truly safe but you never know who you’re really dealing with. In my case the adult addict convicted felon children of the women who provided daycare to my foster kids were in cahoots and targeted my home. Thankfully they were caught and will see jail time, women may also be charged and lost their daycare licenses for life. My parents were once robbed by the guy who changed their oil at Jiffy Lube, he targeted multiple homes in their affluent neighborhood.
    Sorry for the long post but I want you to be aware so you can proactive protect your families.

    • jennifer says

      we are scanning all documents, receipts, important papers into evernote on our mac. we have a copy on our computer and a back up copy in cyberland (super secure)

      things like SS card and marriage licenses need to be in a safe or a safety deposit box

    • Mandy W. says

      I absolutely agree! Our safe is very large and would be impossible for a thief to take. In it, I also keep a backup of our computer in case it were to get stolen or simple quit working (which I have had happen!). In the last post of the series, I go into a little more detail on both the safe and the backup hard drive.

      Thanks for the reminder!

      • Heather says

        Mandy, this is an awesome series — and very timely for this newlywed. I’ve been meaning to pick up a fireproof safe for impt docs — can you recommend a good one? Or at least a certain size? Thanks!

        • Mandy W. says

          When we were first married, we started with just a small box-type safe from Target. Shortly thereafter, we started saving, and bought a large safe from Sam’s Club. I want to say it was like $350. It is just over 3′ tall, and not quite 2′ wide, and sits in our closet. It is from Sentry, and I like the keypad type of combination rather than the dial. It is a lot easier for me to get into, and there is actually an override keyslot behind the keypad. Each of our two older kids (7 and 6) know where the keys are hidden so that if anything happened to us, they could tell Grandpa or Uncle Jason where everything is.

          I would recommend looking at Sam’s Club or Costco for the best price. Someplace like Sportsman’s Wearhouse, Cabella’s, or Bass Pro Shop would probably also have large safes because they sell guns.

  8. august says

    I actually make household binders for this type of thing and sell them. It works out really well, actually! The only problem I’ve encountered with these are having all of your info in one spot. It hasn’t been a problem for us yet (knock on wood), but my husband think that having all of your info together is extremely dangerous. He thinks we should keep it in a safe at all times. I don’t disagree with him, but when an emergency happens, I don’t want to waste precious time messing with a safe. Also, if it gets stolen, I can get new info/cancel cards etc etc.

    • Mandy W. says

      We chose a safe that is large, so it would be very, very, very difficult to steal, and is also quick and easy to get into if you know the code. We keep it in there all of the time because this is really sensitive information, and it has never been an issue to get into it quickly. It’s a lot faster than having to go to multiple spots in the house.

      Hope that helps!

  9. beingjennifer says

    I started with some of this and have major documents in a binder in the safe, but I love how complete this list is. The biggest binder that will fit in our fireproof safe is a 1 inch. So, I’ll be making more than one. ;-) Thanks!

  10. Tara C. says

    I see the value of what you recommending, it just hasn’t worked for me. I printed out an article on organizing papers with binders about 4 years ago. I set up the binders initially as “money”, “taxes”, and “family”. I guess we didn’t have any important “money” paperwork because only a few random items ended up in there over 4 years. The taxes binder was great for keeping this year and last together, but nothing that individual file folders couldn’t do. The family binder just got too small for a family of 4 plus pet (we had several medical claims over those 4 years). I have decided now to go back to simple file folders in a banker’s type box. I do keep some files on computer, some stored in the attic, and the most important ones in a fireproof safe. So not everything will be in the file box. That system worked for me for years and I didn’t have make time to punch holes, buy dividers and page protectors, and get motivated to make the binders work. I guess the important thing is to do what works for your family and keep critical information accessible but safe. Thanks!

    • Mandy W. says

      Absolutely! This is all about doing what works for your family. The point is to just do something! When we got married, I got a box of random stuff from my MIL for my husband. There were papers from kindergarten, scout merit badges, and thrown in the mix was his original birth certificate! So, just knowing where things are and having them organized and accessible is the important thing.

  11. Meegan says

    I had a lawyer tell me to put my important documents in the freezer if I didn’t have a safe. Supposedly they are fire resistant.

    I also had him say to avoid putting your documents in a safety deposit box because in the event of your death the state automatically puts a freeze on your safety deposit so you would have to go through the court system to get it lifted which adds time and trouble to trying to access things like wills, life insurance policies, etc.

    Just passing along what I’ve been told…. I can’t verify either as I’ve neither has a fire or a loved one pass with a safety deposit box.

  12. Claire says

    I would HIGHLY recommend that everyone doing this series lease a safe deposit box from your bank. Gather the docs Crystal talks about in this post, but separate out the ones that you NEVER want to lose (i.e. birth certificates, passports, wills, etc.). Scan these documents and use copies of the documents as Crystal states. Put the originals into your safe deposit box. Your originals are MUCH safer there because they won’t be stolen if your house is broken in to and it keeps them safe in case your home experiences a natural disaster (fire, etc.).

    We have a safe deposit box and it isn’t much per year; I think it’s around $30 for the whole year…and that is very little to pay for peace of mind! If you wish, you could also put computer back-ups (including photos) on some kind of digital media and store in the deposit box as well.