Why Every Household Needs An Important Information Binder

posted by Andrea | 01/24/2017
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When we had Nora at the end of 2011, Dave and I already had good life insurance policies to cover the financial “what ifs”, and we were in the process of setting up our Dekker Family Living Trust to cover the legal “what ifs”.

I felt like all our bases were covered… but I still had so much anxiety any time I considered “how would Dave manage if I died?” or worse, “how would our family members manage if Dave and I both died?”

I knew whoever stepped in to run our household would have life insurance money to cover whatever expenses arose — but since our financial lives are basically paperless, everything they might need to run our household would be in my email or in an online account somewhere.

They would need access to my email, to our online accounts, to our banks and other investments, and to my business accounts. They would need account numbers, phone numbers, login information, passwords, secret questions, and instructions.

I felt overwhelmed just thinking about it.

So instead of just thinking about it, I took action and put together a large binder filled with ALL our important documents and information — basically a handbook for anyone who needed to step in and “run our lives” if we were unable to run them for whatever reason.

It’s been almost 5 years since I first created our Important Information Binder, and although I originally intended it to be something we would use in emergency situations, it has actually become a fabulously useful resource for me in my everyday life!

I refer to our binder when I need a password, an account number, a phone number, or email address… and I’m relieved to know that our family will have the information they need to step in and run our lives if that ever needs to happen.

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How I Use My Binder:

I use a Duo 2-in-1 Organizer and it works so wonderfully. I keep most of the information in the 3-ring binder portion, but can store extra packets or brochures in the accordion folder portion. I would highly recommend this organizer!

As for how exactly I setup my own Important Information Binder, I actually did a full blog post that 4 years ago — read all about it here!

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How I Keep it Updated:

Every January, I go through our binder, shred outdated information, add new information, and update (and print) a new set of our At-A-Glance information worksheets.

I created these At-A-Glance worksheets to quickly provide any necessary information for each main category… and boy does it make it easy to update the information.

I can usually get everything updated and the new documents printed off in about 30 minutes — I did this last week, so I’m set for another year again!

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What if the information get’s into the wrong hands?

I cannot tell you how many times people have expressed immense concern with the fact that we keep all our important information in one place — and while I sort of see where they are coming from, I honestly don’t understand the huge fear.

Obviously, we don’t keep our binder just hanging out in the middle of our living room, and we don’t have it labeled with “Everything You Need to Know to Steal Our Identity.” In fact, only a few family members even know where we keep it.

In my opinion, the likelihood that someone would break into our house and search for a random binder of information hidden somewhere (as opposed to taking expensive technology items that are right out in the open) seems VERY slim.

So no, we are not worried or concerned at all. 

Instead, I have a HUGE sense of relief any time I consider all those scary “what if” situations.

I know that no matter what, our children will be taken care of and our family members will have every piece of information they need to access whatever they need to access.

I am confident that if this binder ever needs to be utilized in a “what if” situation, it will alleviate a massive amount of stress from an already difficult time.

And THAT’S why I think it’s so important for every household to have some sort of Important Information Binder.

We never know when a crisis or emergency might happen. Someone could die, get seriously injured, go missing, be mentally or physically unable to run a household, or even be unexpectedly gone from their home and family for an extended period of time that requires extra outside help from family and friends.

Since I have always been the one who pays the bills, manages the finances, logs into our online accounts, sets up new accounts, runs my business, and makes sure our household and our finances run smoothly every month, I needed to know that these important actions could be completed whether I was around and able to do them or not.

This binder gives me the reassurances that I’ve done everything I can do to make it as easy as possible IF anyone needs to step into my shoes for a while.

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Create YOUR Binder with these FREE Printables!

Make this year the year you get your important documents in order.

I realize it might take a bit of work to get all your documents together, but I know it will be worth it once you have everything organized and in one convenient location.

I’ll even help you out by giving you access to my FREE printable At-A-Glance worksheets so you can start filling in that important information right away!

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I know I feel much better knowing that if something ever happened to me, Dave (or other family members) would be able to focus their attention on our children instead of scrambling to find necessary information about our finances, insurance, or my business.

How do you store your important information?

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32 comments

  1. Mary Lynn

    03/20/2017

    Hi! I’ve printed this out and ordered the binder. Quick question – what types of docs do you put in the accordian area (what hard copy docs do you find most relevant to have in one place?) I have my files set up just as you did (thank you!!) but trying to figure out really what pertinent papers I should pull out and put in the accordian duo binder.

    Thank you SO much!

    [Reply]

    Andrea Reply:

    Hy Mary Lynn,

    I shared all that information in the first post I wrote about how I set up our binder: http://andreadekker.com/how-i-store-and-organize-our-important-info-free-printables/
    Hope this helps — I know it will feel SO good to have this project done!

    [Reply]

  2. Pixie508

    02/02/2017

    So, I’ve embarked on this process, thanks to this post. While my husband could easily take over if I passed away and vice versa, if something happened to both of us together, no one would be able to figure out where to start. We have 2 kids, and our goal this year (even prior to this post) is to finally put everything into writing as far as our will. We’ve talked to someone about guardianship, but we need to make that official. And, having this info would allow anyone to step in and immediately take control of our affairs, should that become necessary, while waiting for everything to go through probate, etc.

    I also added in the first section the password to our computers (since a lot of info is housed there, and all of the sites listed out in the other sections are in our bookmarks), as well as contact info for both of our companies/direct supervisors, as again, they would also need to be looped in at some point.

    Thanks for making this available to us 🙂 It’s a great framework.

    [Reply]

    Andrea Reply:

    oh my word — I’ve never thought to include our computer passwords! When I first created this document, our computers were not password protected (nor were our phones) but now they all are.

    I definitely need to include our computer and phone passwords! Thanks for the reminder!

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  3. Sammy

    01/26/2017

    What a great idea, I always wonder how my loved ones will cope if something happens to me. I am like you, most of my financial and business information is stored in online accounts behind passwords. I am going to start a binder!

    [Reply]

  4. Heather

    01/25/2017

    Thank you for this! I may be having surgery this year and I’ve already started a list of things I do that someone else would have to take over while I’m down. This will help me get all this info into one place so it’s easier for someone else to handle if/when I can’t!

    [Reply]

    Andrea Reply:

    Good for you for planning ahead now — you will most likely feel so much better knowing it will be easier for others to take over parts of your job for a while! Good luck with the surgery!

    [Reply]

  5. pw

    01/24/2017

    I have seen Andrea’s info last time she posted it. I used something similar but created a spreadsheet with all the accounts, etc. on 1 page for an “at a glance” then it refers to the binder for the details. This is especially necessary if you have aging family members, we created something similar for all of them, and as they passed away it was a big time saver. My husband is an attorney and has always been executor (never their attorney due to conflict of interest) and it has saved him hours of time to manage the estates with their attorneys. Even with this help now with all the new privacy information and forms required it is still time consuming but will save everyone a lot of $ if they hire an attorney. DO IT!!

    What I have problems with is I use Andrea’s PASSWORD GRID she posted and I have about 20 pages of passwords, it is really annoying. I have seen the 1 Password and those online services but am a little nervous about using that and the privacy of it. Somehow I feel that the book and passwords go hand in hand. I have not conquered the password issues yet.
    Thanks Andrea for providing all of this help for us. You are a winner!

    [Reply]

    Andrea Reply:

    Thanks so much! And WOW — 20 pages of my password sheet?? That IS a lot of passwords!

    [Reply]

  6. linda

    01/24/2017

    Andrea;
    I thank you so much for this! I have always wanted to do something like this. This is the year! Since we were able to print the sheets you have made my job much easier. This is on my to do list! Thanks so much!

    [Reply]

    Andrea Reply:

    This is the year! Find yourself a binder, print off my pages, and get started!

    [Reply]

  7. Kathy Coy

    01/24/2017

    I made a binder like yours when you posted this previously. Mine looks an awful lot like yours, ha ha. Thanks for sharing. I even bought a binder just like yours and used your templates. I updated it this year. It is such a great idea.

    [Reply]

    Andrea Reply:

    well yes, I’m guessing it would look a lot like mine then 🙂
    Glad you found my advice helpful for creating your own binder!!

    [Reply]

  8. Kellie

    01/24/2017

    Andrea, I wish I could tell everyone who has read this post just how IMPORTANT it is! My dad passed away unexpectedly a few weeks ago and I became executor of his estate. I can’t begin to express how overwhelming handling an estate is. If he had had a binder like this, I would be in a much better position! My husband and I are in our twenties and going through this process together has made us get all our affairs in order so our families won’t be burdened should something happen. Thanks for putting this together!

    [Reply]

    Andrea Reply:

    oh wow — so sorry to hear this Kellie! I’ve thought about this many times with my own parents. They are fairly organized with their paperwork, but I don’t think anyone else would be able to find their stuff very easily. It’s all spread out and I doubt they have passwords saved anywhere.
    I’m happy you and your husband are using this opportunity to get your own paperwork in order — I’m sure it will be such a relief for you (and for others who might need to utilize it in the future) .

    [Reply]

  9. Debbie

    01/24/2017

    This is great Andrea! Thank you for the printables! I use a hanging folder that includes details of our information, but passwords to accounts are separate. I like that the binder has all the information including personal section that includes DL, SSN, medical contacts, etc. I also like that you update it annually.

    [Reply]

  10. S

    01/24/2017

    What else is in the binder or accordion file besides your printables?

    [Reply]

    Andrea Reply:

    That’s what I talked about in my post a few years ago — I believe I linked to that post today, but here is the link again: http://andreadekker.com/how-i-store-and-organize-our-important-info-free-printables/

    It goes into more detail of how exactly we set up our binder and what we include in the binder.

    [Reply]

  11. Brittany

    01/24/2017

    Thanks so much for the printable, Andrea! This is something I’ve been meaning to work on since getting married in July. It may not seem important now, but during an emergency, all our important info grouped together at our fingertips would be priceless! I noticed vehicle spelled ‘vehical’ on the printable. Thought you may want to know 🙂

    [Reply]

    Andrea Reply:

    Thanks — one more typo to add to my list 🙂
    You should be able to easily change it on your own document too since it’s fully editable.

    [Reply]

    Brittany Reply:

    I’ve edited my copy 🙂 I love how it can be so personalized! You’ve saved me a bunch of time and frustration from trying to start a list like this from scratch. Mine wouldn’t have looked nearly as nice or organized as yours, either. Thanks again! Love reading your blog every day. You’re my favorite! 😀

    [Reply]

    Andrea Reply:

    Thanks Brittany!

    [Reply]

  12. Julie V.

    01/24/2017

    Andrea this is such a necessary post though not a subject that one likes to think about. My elderly parents both recently passed away and I was executor of their trust. My parents didn’t have any paper work together, and I literally spent hours going through their condo trying to find all the information I needed. Everyone should put together your binder with all the information to help their loved ones.

    [Reply]

  13. Kim

    01/24/2017

    Great post on a very important topic! I want to share with you a resource I discovered last year called the Prepare Your Life Planner. I used to make my own binder, similar to yours, but once I saw the Prepare Your Life Planner, I had to have it. It’s so much more comprehensive than mine. So I bought it and it’s worth every dollar to me. I spent some time a few days ago completing all the tasks. I do not have any of our password info in it. We use 1Password as our secure password manager online. http://preparemylife.com/shop/prepare-my-life-planner/

    [Reply]

    Andrea Reply:

    Thanks Kim! That looks great!

    [Reply]

  14. Nellie

    01/24/2017

    I have a password protected app with iCloud back-up where I store all the information you mention, and more.
    Those who need to step in if I’m unable to take care of myself knows this single password and can access the information from any device connected to the internet.
    Since I’m seldom far away from my cell phone (or vice versa 😉 I too have all this information at my fingertips wherever I am.

    [Reply]

  15. Jen

    01/24/2017

    I’m curious if you use a password app on your phone to store passwords? I find the thought of entering all that on my phone a bit overwhelming but would love to have it easily accessible/updateable. Do you–or your readers– know of any that you would recommend?

    [Reply]

    Nellie Reply:

    I use iPassSafe+
    It’s by far the best one I’ve tried, I’ve used it for 5+ years and recommended to many friends who are also super satisfied.
    There is a free version of the app so you can try it out before you purchase it, but I’ve got to say it’s one of the best $1 I’ve ever spent.

    [Reply]

    Andrea Reply:

    haha — sounds like a good bargain for $1!! thanks for sharing Nellie!

    [Reply]

    Andrea Reply:

    I don’t — but after seeing some of the comments here, I might have to look into one!

    [Reply]

  16. Lisa

    01/24/2017

    This is awesome! I’ve been looking into doing this and so happy for such a great example! Thanks for the great post!!

    [Reply]

    Andrea Reply:

    you’re welcome Lisa! Hope this works for you!

    [Reply]