Five Types of Documents to Keep in Your Emergency Binder

Confidence comes from being prepared. Readiness is important for protecting our finances, our family, and ourselves. That is why it is important to keep an Emergency Binder—a group of documents in an accessible location in case you or a family member becomes incapacitated. If you are unable to provide important information like birth certificates, insurance, and other financial accounts, this binder will ensure that a family member can find everything they need to settle affairs quickly.

This can be a difficult conversation—no one likes to talk about death or illness—but an important one to have to make sure your family can help each other in times of need. Having a collection of your important documents that they can easily access will give them a road map in an emergency. This keeps them from having to play detective on top of an already emotional situation.

This binder is best in both physical and digital form—gather copies of the documents by hand, then scan them with a smartphone or scanner to have them ready in either form. Just be sure the digital file is in a secure but accessible location as well. Here are some things you should include in your binder:

  • Personal Documents:
    • Birth certificate.
    • Social Security card.
    • Driver’s license.
    • Passport.
    • Marriage certificate.
    • Divorce paperwork.
    • Adoption paperwork.
    • Immigration documentation.
  • Medical Information:
    • Health insurance information.
    • Names of physicians.
    • Medical records.
    • Living will.
  • Financial Information:
    • List of banking accounts.
    • Loan information.
    • Credit cards.
    • Utilities.
    • Memberships & subscriptions.
    • Investments.
    • Other insurance information.
    • Retirement accounts.
    • Property information.
  • Additional information:
    • Safety deposit boxes & storage.
    • Vehicle information.
    • Personal effects.
    • Employer or military information.
    • Burial & obituary wishes.
    • Passwords for online accounts.
    • Memorial services.
  • Personal wishes:
    • Include a section to write what you wish to pass on to your family in the form of possessions, ideas, hopes, requests, or memories. This will be a chance to impart some final words that you may not have time to say if the unexpected were to happen.

Once you have assembled your Emergency Binder, it is helpful to run at least one Financial Emergency Drill. This is a brief exercise that goes through the motions necessary to find the Emergency Binder in case you become incapacitated. Just as you would run a fire drill to practice the safest way to exit a burning building, a Financial Emergency Drill will ensure everyone in your family knows what to do in an emergency.

If you find gathering everything listed above to be a monumental task, remember that even a slim Emergency Binder is better than none. Gather a dozen or so of the most important documents as soon as you can so you at least have something to work with when the time comes.

If you are looking for help on assembling a binder or holding a drill, watch this video from our Focus on YOUR Money webinar series for more information. Remember, the Emergency Binder is just one piece of your life insurance plan—connect with one of our agents today to discuss other policies and features that can protect your family’s financial security in times of need.

Check out our other posts about financial literacy and holding annual financial reviews.

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