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Record keeping should be New Year resolution

If you were incapacitated, would anyone be able to find your important records and take care of your family’s financial or business matters? Having important papers organized and accessible in advance can be very important in an emergency or crisis situation.

Consider the following for organizing your important records.

n Location: Options for storage might include a home safe, fire-security box or off-site location such as a safety deposit box. The storage container should be securable and fire resistant. Shoe boxes or cardboard boxes in the closet or under the bed are not appropriate.

n Who knows: Does someone in addition to your spouse know where these papers are kept? Consider making a list of such papers and records, and on the list state where these documents can be found. Then advise a trusted third party — an attorney, CPA, relative, or family friend — where this list is kept. The general idea is that someone not domiciled in your residence knows about this list and how to access it. This decision requires a certain comfort level, and you alone are able to make that determination.

n Which papers: Regardless of who knows what, organized records are always a plus. The following items might be part of your “important documents” list: safety deposit box key, life insurance policies, deeds, contracts, leases, titles, mortgage(s), loan notes, banking, savings, investment and retirement account(s) records, will, burial arrangements, all other insurance policies like health, auto, home, etc. and birth certificates.

Another important record-keeping activity is making or updating a home inventory. It may not sound like an exciting activity, but in the event of a calamity such as a fire, burglary, flood or tornado, a current home inventory can save a lot of time, money and frustration in the insurance settlement process.

Take this test. Sit down and try to make a detailed list of what’s in each room of your dwelling. It’s amazingly hard to remember all the “stuff” that accumulates — wall hangings, curtains, cookware, clothing, sports gear, jewelry, knick-knacks, rugs, clocks, etc. Get the picture?

This weekend, go ahead and bite the bullet. Video or photo each room and list major items on paper. Record brand, model, date and amount of purchase, if possible. Serial numbers are important on some items. Also, saving receipts on big-ticket items is always a good idea.

For antiques and jewelry, written descriptions or appraisals are important. Don’t forget the closets, and remember, even your attic may be full of valuables. You can usually get a home inventory checklist from your insurer. These lists are great tools to help organize your records.

Remember to update your inventory every year or so, and keep it in a safe location away from your dwelling. Taking the time to make and update your inventory now can help you in working with your insurer later and maximizing your recovery should you have the need.

However you decide to store your personal records or whatever you decide to include, one fact is clear. If important legal, business and personal documents are organized and accessible, the handling of a crisis situation is made much easier.

Wayne Scroggins, is the president and owner of Scroggins Insurance Agency, 6505 Cortez Road W., Bradenton. He can be reached at (941) 795-1500 or wayne@waynescroggins.com.

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