A More Detailed Look at our Important Info Binder

posted by Andrea | 05/2/2017
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Ever since I first shared our Important Information Binder (over 4 years ago now), I have gotten so many questions, comments, and emails asking me to:

  • go into more detail
  • explain more
  • explain why we feel this binder is so necessary
  • etc. etc.

So a few months ago, I shared more detail, more explanation, and exactly why I feel it’s SO crucial for every single household to have some sort of organized system for all the important documents and information for their home and personal lives.

I thought the questions would stop… however, after that post, I continued to get more emails and questions, asking specifically for a list of exactly what items and documents we have in each category of our important information binder.

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Honestly, I didn’t want to answer the questions, emails, and comments.

I felt like they were too personal, too intrusive, and just too much.

I kept many of the emails and questions in my “follow-up” email folder for many weeks (which is totally unlike me — normally a very prompt email responder). I thought about the request for a couple months, and I finally decided that I can share the information without being too “revealing” of our personal lives.

Plus, my goal for writing the initial post was to help others get ALL their important information organized and in ONE location so we can all be prepared for those “what if” situations in life.

I sincerely hope today’s post is helpful for those of you in the midst of setting up an important information binder — or that it’s the extra nudge you need to finally start (and complete) your own important information binder.

It is a bit of work upfront to compile all the necessary information (especially if you have lots of different accounts) but over the last 4+ years, I have spent mere minutes a year updating the necessary information.

So once it’s done, you should have very little maintenance… and oh what peace of mind I have knowing this information is organized and ready to go if it’s ever needed.

Here we go… a list of everything we keep in OUR important info binder.

**NOTE: I refer to the “cover sheets” in each section below. You can download and print your own cover sheets (for free).

Also, I have many photocopies of original documents in our binder — the originals are all stored in our fireproof safe.

INSIDE COVER: 

  • Business cards for all our “VIPS” (bank managers, financial investors, accountant, attorney, web developer for my blog, doctors, dentist, mechanic, etc.)
  • Information regarding the whereabouts of our fireproof safe and the key

PERSONAL INFO SECTION:

  • Cover Sheet
  • Photocopy of our Marriage License
  • Photocopies of Dave and my Driver’s Licenses, Social Security Cards, Birth Certificates, and Passports
  • Dave’s most recent teaching certificate
  • Each of our childrens’ Birth Certificates, Social Security Cards, Baptism Certificate, and immunization records

FINANCIAL INFO SECTION: 

  • Cover Sheet (most of our financial info is just numbers and passwords, so it’s almost all on our cover sheet)
  • A signed agreement from our financial investor
  • A listing of all my Savings Bond numbers, valuation, and expiration dates (I got SO many growing up)
  • Statements showing our student loans were paid in full

INSURANCE INFO SECTION: 

  • Cover Sheet
  • The current “Annual Report” for both Dave and my life insurance policies
  • The contract for our health and dental insurance
  • A booklet of information regarding Dave’s life insurance through his school (in the back accordion section of our binder)
  • A booklet of information regarding Dave and my extra life insurance (in the back accordion section of our binder)
  • A booklet of information regarding our health insurance (in the back accordion section of our binder)

HOME & AUTO INFO SECTION:

  • Cover Sheet
  • Official Warranty Deed showing that all real estate we own is actually owned by our Living Trust not Dave and I personally
  • Information for our home title, purchase agreement, certificate of survey for our property, and the mortgage payoff
  • Most recent Property Assessment and Taxable Valuation Report
  • Information for our home and auto insurance
  • Certificate of Title, Michigan Registration, and License Plate Renewal Notice for each vehicle

RETIREMENT INFO SECTION: 

  • Cover Sheet
  • Information for Dave’s school’s pension plan
  • Information for each of our Roth IRA’s
  • Dave’s most recent Social Security Statement
  • Document showing that all our retirement accounts are property of our Living Trust

MY BUSINESS INFO SECTION: 

  • Cover Sheet
  • My most recent LLC filing
  • My most recent signed W-9
  • My Business filing through the state
  • My Employer Identification information through the IRS
  • A document from the IRS stating that I file taxes as an S-corporation even though I’m technically an LLC
  • A Membership Certificate stating that my business is owned by me and that the ownership transfers to our Living Trust if anything happens to me.

OK… I think that’s everything.

I’m guessing many of you might be wondering things like

  • but what about the phone numbers and email addresses
  • what about the usernames and passwords
  • what about all their specific account information

ALLLLLLLL of that information is the individual Cover Sheets — they basically serve as “at-a-glance” reference sheets with the majority of our important information typed up and printed on one piece of paper (sometimes 2 if we have a lot of information).

And remember, you can download and print your own cover sheets here. Then just fill them out with your own information and you’re ready to go!

If you do nothing else, just having the cover sheets filled out and stored in an easy-to-access location will be a huge help to anyone who needs to access your information in a time of crisis. I just like including the extra documents and putting everything in a binder to be very thorough 🙂

I am 100% confident this binder will be hugely helpful if/when it is ever needed by anyone other than Dave or myself.

However, if I’m perfectly honest, this binder has already been extremely helpful for me over the past 4 years. There have been so many times when I would have had to look up tedious information, account numbers, passwords, etc. and all I had to do is grab my binder and quickly look up the information.

And speaking of “grabbing my binder” I’m often asked where we store our binder.

I’m not going to answer that (for obvious reasons), but I’ve had many good suggestions over the years from other very smart people!

Here are some of their ideas:

  • With recipe books in the kitchen
  • With photo albums
  • Out in plain sight labeled “family vacation” or “favorite memories”
  • On the tool bench
  • In the game cabinet
  • With the craft supplies
  • In the office labeled “to-dos”

I know most people think they should keep it locked away for safe-keeping — but honestly, if a thief came into your home, they would instantly look for a safe somewhere. They probably wouldn’t bother scanning through your cookbooks, family photo albums, craft supplies, or your game cabinet.

Plus, by keeping your binder somewhere you can easily access, you’ll be able to refer to it and update it more easily than if it was locked away in your safe in the back of your extra closet in the back of your basement bedroom 🙂

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So what are your waiting for… get started on YOUR binder today!

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28 comments

  1. Angel

    05/17/2017

    A few years back we had an emergency. A wildfire came through our neighborhood. We had to evacuate and had about 20 minutes to gather up things to take with us. If I had had a binder like this put together then, I could have grabbed it and had all my info with me in the hotel. Needless to say I had to go by memory and whatever info I had in my laptop and phone at the time. Great idea, I am ordering a binder now!

    [Reply]

    Andrea Reply:

    oh no — sorry to hear about this… but I’m so glad you’re ordering the binder!

    [Reply]

  2. Trudy

    05/03/2017

    Another good thing to have is a listing of all your and your spouse passwords. You constantly hear on the news of someone needing to get into a Facebook or Apple Account and, because they don’t have the password, it causes a lot of hardship.

    Also, it seems like we are notified every 6 months that our credit card has been “compromised” and a new one appears. Because we pay several bills automatically via credit card, having to remember all the passwords and procedures to update the records with these companies is a pain in the neck. I keep a listing of what we pay via credit card and the how to’s of updating.

    [Reply]

    Andrea Reply:

    yup, all the passwords are on our “cover sheets” at the beginning of each section. I update so our binder is (almost) always current.

    [Reply]

  3. Kellie Denton

    05/03/2017

    I remember your post about this from years ago because it prompted me to make a binder for our family – thank you! Six months ago my dad passed away and I became executor of his estate. I had NO idea the amount of work that goes into this and I wish I could stress to readers just how incredibly helpful this would’ve been to me! Just curious, do you keep your will in here (or a copy)? Or do you have instructions on how to find it? (You may have mentioned this already and I glanced over it). My family literally had to tear the house apart to find my dad’s and it took weeks.

    [Reply]

    Andrea Reply:

    We got several copies of our will and gave them to various family members already. We also have our will in the binder.

    [Reply]

  4. Jennifer

    05/02/2017

    Thank you so much for sharing!

    [Reply]

  5. Gloria P

    05/02/2017

    I do agree that this is an important document to create but I question the safety of having it on my hard drive. Computers occasionally need to be repaired (extra eyes potentially looking at files) and computers need to be upgraded which creates an old hard drive that must be properly taken care of and not just recycled with the semi-annual electronics event. So my thought would be to print out the forms you have created but HAND WRITE the account numbers and passwords for safety sake. Maybe I’m overly paranoid but my life’s savings are at stake. Thank you!

    [Reply]

    Andrea Reply:

    thanks Gloria.
    I guess in my opinion, I figure if someone wants my information badly enough, they will be able to find it. On the contrary, if my family NEEDS my information in a time of crisis or emergency, I want to make it extremely simple and easy for them to find everything they need.
    I like your idea of writing the numbers in by hand though — that’s a good “happy medium”!

    [Reply]

  6. PW

    05/02/2017

    I am so grateful you take time to post this. It is absolutely so important to have this type of information readily available. You often start looking for information like this when a crisis occurs and when you need to concentrate on the crisis you get more stressed and use more time looking and searching for very important and necessary information. Been there done that with numerous elderly family members who had no children, lived by themselves then got sick or was in the hospital and we needed to pay bills, find medical powers of attorney while trying to work full time and keep our household intact. Impossible. My husband is an attorney and some of his clients he has to bill to go thru papers (piles of them) files, and make calls so set aside time and do this for your own good. It is a big job but break it down into smaller tasks until you complete.

    [Reply]

  7. Alicia

    05/02/2017

    This is such a good idea to have all personal info in one place! Right now I store most/all of these documents in our filing cabinet that locks, and that’s worked well for us so far, but I can see how it would be extremely beneficial to have everything at an arms reach !

    [Reply]

    Andrea Reply:

    yes! it’s so crazy because I originally created this binder for those emergency situations, but I personally end up using it on a very regular basis because it’s so much faster and easier than searching through the filing cabinet or looking up my information online!

    [Reply]

  8. BB

    05/02/2017

    I noticed when I went to print this, it said ‘Evernote’ at the bottom. Was this just the print option for this, or do you use Evernote? If you do use Evernote, I’m sure some posts on how you use it, do you use ‘templates’ that I’ve seen offered on occasion, or any other means of working with Evernote?
    I do have Evernote, and use it for shopping lists – groceries, car needs (wiper blades measurements needed for all the cars!). measurements for our house or things in our house that we are looking for replacements as well as things like paint names/brands, Amazon needs,
    However, I do find it a bit ‘ornery’ at times, so some info from you and/or other users on things they do/how they use it could be helpful, if you’re so inclined. 😀

    [Reply]

    Andrea Reply:

    Hmmm… that’s weird — they are just Word documents so there is nothing with Evernote at all. I wonder, are you trying to print directly from the internet or are you actually downloading the Word documents?

    [Reply]

  9. Kelly K.

    05/02/2017

    When I became guardian of my father, it was in the midst of his dementia decline. He had purged a lot of important documents. It took me a really long time to piece together his finances, his monthly incomes (military disability, pension, social security, etc) and his bills. Additionally, trying to piece together the monthly deposits and deductions out of his bank accounts was also a bit stressful. I became very adept at documenting EVERYTHING throughout the years I cared for him.. I also became very paranoid that I didn’t know half of the same information about my own finances. I had my husband draw up a document with all the important information as you’ve outlined. He updates it once a year for me. Additionally, I’ve kept a Family Manager binder for years with the kids’ info and general family info that we need to reference – school, church, medical, etc. These tools are invaluable. It sounds like you were “harassed” quite a bit on this subject, Andrea, but I am truly thankful that you’ve spent as much time on the subject as you have over your many posts. Repetition spurs action. 🙂

    [Reply]

    Andrea Reply:

    Thanks Kelly!
    I wasn’t “harassed” but definitely kept getting more and more and more questions. So hopefully this post will clear everything AND motivate even more people to finally get their important paperwork in order now!

    [Reply]

  10. Chris from Normal

    05/02/2017

    I’m widowed and have heart failure so I’ve done this for my kids so they don’t have to search thru files-peace of mind-because I was always worried about “what if”.

    I also put together a medical binder with dr. info, a list of my medications with directions and strengths, a pocket for my visit reports, and a copy of my medical records. I have the binder divided by categories

    I have a household management binder for all the “other stuff”; a pet section, auto section etc. Whatever you need to keep track pf.

    I’m a very organized person so gathering everything wasn’t that time consuming and I feel better knowing they only have to look in one spot for everything. I included the keys to my fire safe box and safety deposit box for the items that are noted to be there.

    [Reply]

  11. Lisa

    05/02/2017

    I used your printable and did this a few years ago. It has come in handy and whenever the tornado sirens sound, I just grab it and head to the basement!

    [Reply]

    Andrea Reply:

    good to know! I sure does feel good to know your affairs are “in order” whenever any sort of emergency arrises.

    [Reply]

  12. Jean

    05/02/2017

    I am in the midst of working on the estate of a sibling who passed 4 weeks ago. Oh my. I can’t tell you what a gift it is to your loved ones or personal representative if you leave them something like this. I only glanced at your lists — but would add that it is also helpful to include a list of accounts from which automatic withdrawals are made monthly (to reduce surprises or possibility of over-drawing an account). Also, a “digital” estate plan where you list user IDs, passwords, security questions, account numbers, etc. is helpful. I know people who could not get in to their spouse’s computers or phones when they passed because they did not know the “current” password.

    I am learning many new things — for instance, you need to file the ORIGINAL will with the county you live in. If you have amendments to your will or trust — you need the originals of those documents too (even if they are superseded by a subsequent change). You can file copies — but then it is going to take longer (and more expense) for you to get the documents you require to manage the estate. You will need not only original death certificates (get one to start, review it for errors, then order more — surprisingly there may be errors in the first one you get) and for (some) banks you will need certification from the county you live in that you are the personal representative. You can’t get that document (which you also have to pay for the original and copies) until you file the will and the county does their part of the process.
    You will have to contact the various banks and insurance companies and investment/retirement places. Each will send you (slowy) the forms and list of paperwork they require – which will dribble in over days/weeks – and each entity will require different things (but all want an original death certificate). This weekend when I was slogging through papers and forms I was thinking it is inherently wrong to have to grieve, do endless paperwork, look for documents, plan a party and send thank you notes — all at the same time! 🙂

    [Reply]

    Kellie Denton Reply:

    Hi Jean, I’m currently working on my dad’s estate but I ended up having to hire a big law firm for help because things were SO complicated. And yes if anyone is reading this could I just reiterate how HELPFUL a binder like this will be should you pass away! My dad has been gone 6 months and even with a good lawyer, I’m spending around 20 hours a week STILL on estate stuff. I’m sorry about your sister Jean…praying for comfort for you and your family.

    [Reply]

  13. Christine from The (mostly) Simple Life

    05/02/2017

    Love this! I have a set of index cards with much of the same information and it’s so nice to have. Of course, I have to remember to keep it updated 🙂 That’s the hard part.

    [Reply]

  14. Bev

    05/02/2017

    Thanks for giving us a peek into your binder Andrea! My kids also had a lot of savings bonds from a grandparent and I found the Savings Bond Wizard very helpful on the US Dept of Treasury (Treasury Direct) website. I think they have a Savings Bond Calculator for those with a Mac computer. It gave us a nice printout with all the info that made a great summary page to keep with all the bonds or in a binder like yours. It came in very handy when we were deciding which bonds to cash out when. Maybe you would like it too! And as someone who works in the legal industry, I always encourage people to make sure a loved one also knows where their estate planning or other important info is too, especially if you have labeled it “Family Vacation” or something. Making it hard for the bad guys to find might also result in family not being able to find it either in case of an emergency.

    [Reply]

  15. Mara Yager

    05/02/2017

    Thanks, Andrea!

    [Reply]

  16. Anna

    05/02/2017

    I ordered the same binder and put ours together earlier this year. It’s already been useful to me and now I see a few more documents I should add to it. I also added copies of our wills, powers of attorney, and advance healthcare directives to the personal section. Since I take care of all of our finances, I feel so much better knowing that my husband can pick this up and know what to do if something happens to me.

    [Reply]

    Andrea Reply:

    glad to hear! And yes, I know exactly what you mean about the peace of mind you feel once everything is organized.

    [Reply]

  17. Lisa

    05/02/2017

    Thank you so much for sharing in detail, this is awesome! What type of binder do you use and where can we purchase one?

    [Reply]

    Andrea Reply:

    I don’t have access to my computer or the links right now, but all that information is in the previous posts I’ve written about the binder. I linked to those posts in this post.

    [Reply]