Important Papers in Life and in Death

Save those old photos digitally to extend the life of the photographs.

Save those old photos digitally to extend the life of the photographs.

Are you planning to adopt a child? Or, are you about to have surgery? Maybe you already lost a home to fire or flood, and you now realize how difficult it can be to replace important papers. Some items, such as photographs, may be impossible to replace. Which papers are important to have on hand, and how can you protect your important one-of-a-kind items? The ability to lay your hands on some documents within minutes is as important in life as it is in death.

The ability to find important papers easily can eliminate stress during a time when you do not need that stress. Additionally, the ability for loved ones to find documents they may need after you die can help them grieve with less stress as well.

Take a weekend to gather together your important documents. Make a list of any of the following that may be missing and plan to replace them immediately:

  • Birth certificates or adoption decrees
  • Marriage license
  • Wills
  • Durable Power of Attorney statements
  • Deeds and titles
  • Diplomas and certificates
  • Insurance policies
  • Contracts
  • Social Security cards
  • Military separation papers
  • Visas and passports
  • Income tax returns
  • Medical and other important financial documents
  • All credit card numbers and passwords
  • The VIN and license plate numbers of your vehicles
  • Information about insured valuables, along with images of those valuables

Make a copy of each document and store one copy in a safe deposit box and keep the originals in a fireproof file box at home in a safe place. You may want to store another copy in another state with a trusted friend or an attorney, as many a bank and entire neighborhoods have been destroyed by floods and fire.

One way to save these documents is by scanning them and filing them on a disc. Be aware that software programs can change from year to year, so save the files as .jpg (picture image) or as a PDF (Portable Document Format), as these two types of file formats have been around for years, and may be around for many more years. Both file formats can be opened by a number of software programs, too. Sometimes, scanning and saving photographs to disc is one way to actually preserve older photographs.

This is the answer to one way that you can save family photographs. Digital photos can be copied onto a disk and the disk left with a friend or loved one. They also can be sent by email to anyone who has email. If you still develop your photographs, make a habit of ordering two copies and store one set away from your home.

If you have already finalized a will and you have a power of attorney, you could use this person as a trusted resource for your important papers. Two safety deposit boxes, located in two different towns or cities, is one solution to saving your important papers and disks. You also can register with an online storage business that allows you to save data on their servers.

Pulling together important papers and photographs is one way you can rest easy when it comes to important events in your life. After all, unless you can find your passport, there’s little chance you can take advantage of last-minute airfare specials on flights to overseas countries. And, you can replace furniture you might lose in a fire or flood, but there’s little chance to replace those one-of-a-kind items such as photographs.

Finally, unless your loved ones know where to find your will, there might be a chance that they will not let you rest in peace.

Once again, safety is stressed in how you store these important papers and documents. Although there is some logic in knowing that a thief cannot find those papers if you can’t find them, you might enjoy the peace of mind in knowing that you can put your hands on important documents within minutes if needed.

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