Organizing your important documents

Most of us have some kind of filing system for our important papers—but would someone else be able to find your documents quickly if something happens to you? If you’re injured or if you die, you’ll want your family or the executor of your will to find important papers including estate paperwork quickly by having it organized in one place.

Consider creating a binder or master folder for your important documents and storing it in a safe place and make sure to tell your loved ones and your executor where they can find it.

Here’s a list of suggestions of what documents to organize in one place:

Legal documents

  • Will
  • Powers of attorney (providing directions on how to manage your financial, health care and end of life decisions)
  • Trusts
  • Birth certificate
  • Marriage certificate
  • Divorce certificate

Financial documents

  • Bank account statements
  • Loan statements
    • Mortgage(s)
    • Lines of credit
    • Loans
    • Credit cards
  • Investment account statements
    • Non-registered (open) accounts
    • Registered retirement savings plans (RRSPs)
    • Registered retirement income funds (RRIFs)
    • Tax-free savings accounts (TFSAs)
    • Registered education savings plans (RESPs)
  • Insurance policy contracts
    • Life insurance
    • Disability insurance
    • Critical illness insurance
    • Long-term care insurance
    • Health and dental insurance
    • Home insurance
    • Auto insurance
    • Personal accident insurance
    • Hospitalization insurance
  • Company pension documents
  • Notices of assessment for recent tax years

Additional information

  • Funeral and burial instructions
  • Business documents if you own or co-own a business
  • Real estate deeds
  • List of jewelry, art, collectibles and other valuables
  • Contact information for your professional advisors
    • Financial advisor
    • Accountant
    • Lawyer

Storing your documents

Once you’ve organized this information you can choose to store it in a:

  • safety deposit – very secure but limited access
  • file cabinet – not secure but easy to access
  • home safe – relatively secure and accessible

Make sure you tell your executor and family where and how to access your important documents.

Putting your estate paperwork in order simplifies things for loved ones and your executor. It also helps make sure no assets are overlooked and your beneficiaries receive the full legacy you intended.

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