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The Dean Law Firm Blog

Wednesday, December 2, 2015

5 Tips for Organizing Legal and Financial Documents

Have you ever found yourself frantically searching for an important document, assuming it was in one place but realizing you have no idea where you stored it (or where it seemingly “walked off” to)?  This is common, especially when we have full schedules and an abundance of paperwork.  The good news is that there are ways to help organize your important paperwork and eliminate stress and frustration that comes with being unable to locate paperwork when it is needed.  Here are 5 tips to help you on the journey to organization:

  1. Have one centralized location for important documents.
    This could be a home office or a lockable file cabinet in your closet.  Think of a place that is best suited for your needs.  For legal documents, you may want to store originals in a safety deposit box at a bank or secure location in your home, while keeping copies in a more accessible area.  Other hard to replace documents, such as passports and marriage certificates, can be kept in a fireproof box for safe keeping.
  2. Utilize organization tools.
    File boxes, colorful folders and tabs, and digital storage options (such as USB drives, CDs, or back-up hard-drives) are excellent tools to assist you.
  3. Find a filing system that is most natural to you.
    Alphabetical?  Grouped by category (medical, financial, estate plan documents, tax paperwork, etc.)?  What is your natural way of thinking?
  4. Create a consistent routine for filing.
    Consider: (1) Having a “catch-all” folder/bag/box to put bills, statements, and other miscellaneous items that come in throughout the month.  Find one day a month to organize and file those items.  (2) For legal and other critical documents, it is best to store them properly as soon as possible.  (3) You may want to give your successor Trustee or Executor copies of your documents as well.
  5. Eliminate unneeded paperwork.
    Once a year, find a time to go through your files and shred or throw away any unnecessary paperwork.  This may be old receipts, old tax papers (it is recommended by the IRS that you keep tax paperwork for 7 years to ensure you no longer will need them), or unneeded paper/envelopes that come with statements and bills.

Taking the time to establish a system can truly save you time and unnecessary stress in the long-run.  The key is to find what works best for you and your personality.

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