Left Behind with Paper Clutter

I wanted to write about this topic because I am working with more and more people who are “left behind” to handle the paper clutter after a loss.  Typically it is because of a divorce or death of a parent, spouse, aunt or uncle.  The person who has left the paperwork behind just didn’t have the desire or energy to handle the paperwork and now my clients aren’t at the age where they really “feel” like wanting to deal with it all either.  They have their own families to think about, their own schedules that are already being stretched and finding the time to handle a mish-mash of paperwork is daunting.  Being left behind is painful and stressful – having to deal with all of the paperwork can sometimes seem like too big of a task to handle, and it can even cause resentment.  There are some easy things that can be done to ease the burden of the person “left behind”. 

1.  Make sure that important documents are placed in a secure box, i.e. Will, Living Will, Life Insurance Policies, Birth Certificates, Social Security Cards, and other important Court documents, including the Deed to the Home and any other pertinent home information.  The key thing to remember is that these items are in a fire-proof box.  The other piece to this is to have a good and reliable friend or relative know the location of the key to the security box.  Don’t keep both keys in the same location – keep one off-site.

2.  Document the items in the home.  Use a Home Inventory System to document anything that you feel is valuable and/or sentimental.  This also includes taking a picture of everything that you know (or feel) is of value.  It is easier to keep emotions in check when you have the documentation needed to prove the value of an item – or that an item existed.

3.  Scan all of your important documents.  I recommend scanning Life Insurance Policies – at least the Structure Page that states the value of the Policy, the beneficiary, the Policy Number and who to contact – when you need to reach a Company or Agent.  You can use this as a backup, should something happen to the security box.  After the items are scanned, save them on a flash drive or CD that is stored at an outside location.  A bank safety deposit box would be the most logical location, but if that isn’t possible, have a responsible and reliable friend or relative lock the flash drive in their home or office.  And remember, if you chose your Inventory List onto a CD, a CD is not necessarily safe in a fire-proof safety box.  Extreme heat can still melt the CD that is inside of the box.  Protect your CD’s in another way such as a Bank Safety Deposit Box.

Being left behind is stressful.  Having all of your paperwork and documentation in order can make the process of dealing with the process so much easier.  It can also save you money when you can hand organized paperwork over to an attorney to begin the Probate process.

Having all of your pertinent life paperwork documented is one of the best gifts that you can give to your spouse, children and other important people in your life.

Linda Clevenger                                                                                                                                                 Organization Direct