The following informational article is by guest blogger Debbie Ginsberg, Certified Senior Move Manager and owner of Uncluttered Domain, Inc. We invited Debbie to speak to the importance of keeping and organizing vital records as these documents are necessary for anyone looking to apply for financial assistance with their chronic care. Having these documents readily available can save a lot of time and aggravation especially if one is in a crisis situation. We hope the following links will be of help to you if you need to locate lost records for you or your loved one.
For vital records such as birth, marriage and death certificates: http://www.health.ny.gov/vital_records/genealogy.htm
For lost Medicare Cards: https://secure.ssa.gov/apps6z/IMRC/main.html
For lost Social Security Cards: http://ssa-custhelp.ssa.gov/app/answers/detail/a_id/251/~/replace-a-social-security-card-for-an-adult
For lost Passports, Military Records, Green Cards, Tax returns, Driver’s license, etc.: http://www.usa.gov/Citizen/Topics/Family-Issues/Vital-Docs.shtml
Creating A Vital Record Keeper
By Debbie Ginsberg
You rarely hear this talked about, but creating a vital record-keeper is so important for an individual and for a family. Organizing vital records and creating a document management system, which is simply a fancy word for proper filing, go hand in hand. Gathering your passports, copies of driver’s licenses, credit cards, bank accounts, names of lawyers, accountants, medical doctors and important medical records all in one place helps you locate important information quickly when needed.
There are many options in making a vital record planner. For a “make your own” record-keeper I recommend that you buy a 4” ring binder, file dividers with tabs that you can write on and a box of plastic protective sheet covers that are made to fit into ring binders. Make sure that the plastic protective sheets have an easy opening, but stay securely closed so that nothing falls out. You may need more than one day to complete this project.
Another option is to purchase the product freedom filer for vital records. This product comes complete with color coded pre-designed category labels and pre-styled forms to help guide you in tracking important information. It’s very helpful for the person who needs guidance in determining what needs to be saved.
Consider storing your vital records in a fireproof protected safe. Safes can be purchased in locksmith stores. Not only will the store deliver your safe to your home, they also provide the service of bolting your safe to the ground inside your home. Once bolted in a hidden area you and your family will always know where to find the safe.
To begin the record-keeper project, take a pad of paper and write down all the different items you need to keep in a safe place. Think about the information that’s needed in case of an emergency and provide the necessary details for a family member as if you wouldn’t be available to reach. Once you have your list, alphabetize the categories and create file dividers that indicate the type of document that will be placed in the vital records planner. You can start by gathering your bank account information. Create a section in your record-keeper by writing the word “Banking” on the tab of a file diver. Identify on a sheet of paper all the banks you use including the account numbers, the bank address and their phone number. If you have a relationship with a bank manager, provide his/her name. Keep this written information in one of the plastic protective sheet covers and insert it in your ring binder behind the file divider tab labeled “Banking”. You may want to include information such as your accountant’s contact information or information on how to find your bank statements or tax returns. If you choose to add more information in this section make sure to indicate this on your file divider tab. In addition, it is very prudent to help direct a person to the location where you filed your bank statements, tax returns, etc. Indicate all of this information on the information sheet that is in the protective sheet cover and specify which drawer in your file cabinet contains these documents. Remember to label all the contents of a file drawer on the face of the file drawer.
You should repeat the same steps for Birth Certificates, Death Certificates, Doctors, Insurance, Investments, Lawyers, Marriage License (and Ketubah), Medical Records, Mortgages, Passports, Real Estate Holdings, Social Security numbers, Burial plots, etc. Each category in the planner should be very specific. For example, under the label of “Lawyers”, be sure to make a list of each Lawyer that is involved with your records. There may be one for your will, your long term care plans, a pending law case, real estate lawyer, etc. Provide detailed information about each lawyer including their names, company names, addresses, phone numbers and email addresses. Make it easy for you and your family member to locate this important person. If you have a copy of your will, let the records reflect where you keep the hard copy of your will. Keeping records in alphabetical order helps make finding records that much easier.
How about using electronic filing? If you are computer savvy and know that your loved ones can find anything on a computer do the same record keeping electronically in a file labeled, “Record-Keeper”. You can create your own folders within this file and indicate the category by naming each folder accordingly. Be sure to keep vital, one- of- a -kind documents as in. Passports, birth certificates, licenses, etc. in a fire-proof safe. Indicate this in each folder so that your family member can locate this information when needed. Download this information on a memory stick and keep it in the fire-proof safe. Entrust one of your family members with the combination of the safe so that it can be opened in the event of an emergency.
Every three years open your record-keeper to update documents.
Debbie Ginsberg is an entrepreneur with over 24 years of experience as a business owner. She offers clients her expertise in preparing homes for a move, from coordinating an entire relocation to downsizing, packing and unpacking. Debbie is certified as a Senior Move Manager (cSMM) from NASMM, (National Association of Senior Move Managers) and has over 14 years’ experience in this field. Three years ago Debbie added Professional organizing of residential homes and home offices to her list of services. Debbie is a member of several major organizations in her field such as NAPO (National Association of Professional Organizers), NASMM, ICD (The Institute for Challenging Disorganization) and POLI (Professional Organizers of Long Island).
Debbie’s company, Uncluttered Domain Inc. specializes in assisting seniors during their daunting transition from their lifetime home to their new residence. She can be reached at Uncluttered Domain Inc. 516-984-9365