If Hurricane Harvey has shown us anything, it’s that we may need to grab and go from our homes. Aside from pets and family members, if there is only one thing that you can grab, it should be your vial documents. It’s easiest to grab them if they’re all in the same place though right?
Here is how to make a “vital document binder” and what to include. This process can be completed in as long as it takes you to gather your documents, and it costs zero dollars if you already have a binder and some page protectors, $2 if you don’t.
Included in a vital document binder should be ALL of the following as it applies;
- Birth Certificates for each member of the family
- Social Security cards for each member of the family
- Divorce & Marriage Certificates
- Custody/Child support orders
- Adoption/Foster parent documentation
- Immigration documentation
- A copy of each drivers’ license in the household
- A copy of the current health insurance card, front and back
- Any pet licensure and proof of vaccinations
- Titles to Cars/Deeds to property
- Stocks, Bonds, Investment documentation
- A copy of Will/Estate Work, Trusts, and Living Will for each person
- Declaration sheets of each insurance policy for the household; auto/home/life/title
- An extra checkbook / Debit card
- The previous year’s tax filing, although this can be recreated
Nice to have;
- All account numbers & passwords (in a sealed envelope or on a memory stick)
- High School & College transcripts, although these can be recreated
Place these documents in their own page protector, or double up where it makes sense such as a family member’s birth certificate and social security card. Keep like with like and there is no need to get fancy with dividers and color coding, but my Type A self will give you extra points for doing so.
Make sure that you regularly go through this binder. The best way to do so is when your insurance renews and you need to add the newest declaration sheet. If you need a social security card or birth certificate in the meantime, place it back into the binder immediately after.
In the event that you had to evacuate, if you had all of the above in a single grab-able binder, you would be able to re-create your life from anywhere. You could prove who you are, where you lived, what you own, how much money you have, and what the insurance company’s responsibility is to you. You would have phone numbers and policy numbers, account numbers and proof of insurance to get your hotel paid for. By doing this you have controlled your fate for as much as you possibly can in an uncertain situation. For an added investment, this zippered folder is waterproof.
We keep our vital document binder hidden and locked away. It’s easily assessable in the event of a major emergency and likely the only physical, non-human/animal, thing that we would grab. Pictures can be stored electronically, furniture is easily replaced, and the kids memory boxes can be started again. However, it’s hard to get a replacement license or social security card even in the best of circumstances when you actually have proof of identity. Right now there are thousands of people in Texas who are trying to rent apartments because their home is gone. Things go smoother for both you and the people trying to help you, if you can take simple steps to ensure that you will be able to prove who you are.
Invest this time into readiness.