Whether you have to bug out or are preparing for end of life, creating an Estate Preparedness Portfolio is a critical task that needs to be completed. It is one of the least fun things to do in preparedness but can be one of the most satisfying and important things when documents are needed after a disaster has displaced you and your home has been destroyed.
Some people would call this an Emergency Binder but that seems a bit limiting in scope. To me it is more than the things you would need in an emergency, it should also include any documentation that would be hard to reproduce if a disaster has destroyed your home.
Why You Need an Estate Preparedness Portfolio
When a disaster happens and you have to bug out, you will not have time to gather important documents and other information about your estate and family. By working on this task now, you not only will feel satisfied that you have this information together but you will be relieved if a time comes and you need it.
When you pass away, your family will be grieving and the last thing they need is to have to search for important documents that are needed in dealing with your estate. Your family will be very grateful that you took the time to get your documentation together.
When you take a look at the list of documents below in the checklist:
- Can you imagine the work, time and cost it would take to get new copies even if you could?
- If you have some of the information below but don’t have physical or digital copies stored outside your home, they will be lost if a disaster destroys your home.
- If you don’t have a copy of your personal property inventory outside of your home, you will struggle to come up with a list for your insurance company and will probably have to settle for a lot less money than you should.
Creating an Estate Preparedness Portfolio can save you time and money when a disaster has already caused distress and anxiety. Do not put this task off.
Organizing and Protecting
You could just grab a binder with pocket folders or use an expandable folder to put all of your documents in but it will be hard to quickly find the things you need without dumping everything out. Put some thought and effort into what you will use to organize your documents and how you will protect them.
- My suggestion is to get a sturdy 3-ring binder, index tabs, sheet protectors and plastic organizers for miscellaneous things. StoreSMART has several types of organizers that fit in a 3-ring binder for documents, keys, USB drives and miscellaneous things that you will need in your portfolio.
- It helps to have things organized and divided in your Estate Preparedness Portfolio so create tab dividers and label them to categorize the documents.
- For each section in your portfolio, create an index page for easy reference of what is there.
- Purchase a fireproof and waterproof document bag that you keep your binder in. There are several types on Amazon to choose from. You might want to consider one that has a strap that makes it easy to carry. You could store your binder in a fireproof safe but when you are on the go it would be very beneficial for the portfolio to be protected from fire and water.
- Put original documents in your portfolio along with digital copies on an encrypted USB drive.
- Have digital copies stored on your computer’s hard drive and at least three encrypted USB drives. Put one USB drive in your Estate Preparedness Portfolio, one in a safety deposit box and give one to a trusted family member.
- I am not sure that you can have enough backups so consider storing the digital copies on external hard drives that can be packed with you as well as uploading your documents to a cloud storage service that is encrypted like Dropbox. Be careful that you don’t include full passwords with any account information on a cloud service.
How to Create Your Estate Preparedness Portfolio
Building your portfolio is really not that hard but it will take some time and maybe a bit of money. The following are basics steps to get you going:
- Purchase a 3-ring binder and organization inserts as described above. You do not have to have all of this to get started but do it as soon as possible.
- Decide on how you are going to make copies of documents. You can use your printer/scanner or a phone app that lets you take pictures and save as a PDF.
- Create a checklist based on the information below. Delete items that may not apply and add ones that are not on the list that you need. You can copy and paste the checklist into a Microsoft Word or Google Doc and then print and store in your binder. Our Estate Planning Checklist is an editable PDF that serves this purpose well. It is included in our Estate Preparedness Forms packet on our website.
- Go through the checklist and check off things that you know you have and mark things that you need to get. Some of the items may require you to get new copies and other items you will need to create line a list of Online Accounts, Assets, Liabilities, etc. that will require some research to get the information. This content that you create can be done in a digital document or spreadsheet or even a piece of paper. Our Estate Preparedness Forms packet contains editable PDFs that enable you to record this information easily and save time.
- For each of the items, note how many copies you need to print.
- Create a task list on your phone or computer that lays out the documents that you need to create or obtain and create a plan to get it done.
- For the things you already have, collect them on your work surface to start scanning.
- Scan each document into a new folder onto your computer. Make sure you give it a good name. If you are using your phone, email the PDFs to yourself after you are done and then save to the new folder on your hard drive.
- When you have finished scanning, review your checklist to see how many copies you need and start printing new copies. Mark completed documents on your checklist.
- Put the original documents into a plastic sheet protector and add to the appropriate section in your portfolio. For informational documents that you create punch holes and add to the portfolio.
- Even though you may not have all of the documents needed, go ahead and copy the digital copies to your hard drive and the USB drives. Put one of the USB drives in your car in a locked compartment so that you have one copy outside of your home.
- As you obtain the remaining documents repeat the steps above to add to your storage.
Document and Item Checklist
It would be best if you had the original paper documents in your portfolio for everything but you may find that it is just too much paper to be carrying around and may not fit in one 3-ring binder. It is up to you if you want to have multiple binders but I suggest that you only include paper copies of the most important and relevant documents and have the rest as a digital copy on the USB drive. Some things will be easy to get new printed copies especially if you have put a USB drive in your portfolio. Tax Returns, personal property inventory, and medical history are some of the documents that will be ok to only have a digital copy.
- Wills and Trusts
- Living Will
- Power of Attorney
- Last 3 Years Tax Returns
- Financial Account Numbers and Contact Information
- Titles and Deeds to Property like your home and vehicles
- Monthly Bills and Other Obligations
- Stocks and Bonds Information
- Income Verification – Pay Stubs
- Liability Information – Loans, Credit Cards, Photocopy of Credit Card Front and Back
- Insurance Policies, Photocopy of Insurance Cards Front and Back
- Doctors, Clinics and Pharmacy Contact Information
- Emergency Medical Information – Current medical conditions and issues
- Medical History
- Immunization Records
- Marriage, Birth and Death Certificates
- Adoption Papers
- Social Security Cards
- Photocopy of your Driver’s License
- Recent Photographs of Family and Pets
- Pet Microchip Information
- Military Papers
- High School and College Diplomas
- Education Certificates
- Naturalization or Citizenship documents
- Important Contact Information
- Spare Keys to house and vehicles
- A couple of months of utility bills to help verify your residency
- Safety Deposit Box Info and Keys
- Personal Property Inventory
- Funeral and Burial Information – Receipts for paid services
- Letter of Instruction for Survivors
- Online Accounts
- Emergency Plans
- Recent photos of family members and pets
Other Things to Consider
If a disaster like a hurricane, tornado, fire or flood were to destroy your home and its contents, there are other documents and memorabilia that could not be recreated. After you get your Estate Preparedness Portfolio created think about the other things you would not want to lose and start making digital copies to store on your USB drives and a cloud service. Some things to consider are:
- Family Photos
- Newspaper Articles
- Church Announcements
- Children’s Art
- Personal Letters
There is a lot more to consider than wills and power of attorney when you think about all of the important documents that you may need after a disaster and do not want to be destroyed. Getting this documentation together is not very fun and can be tedious but you will be so glad you did if a disaster destroys everything.
Our Estate Preparedness Forms packet helps you get this important task completed. There are a lot of checklists on the web that you can print out and write on but our forms package contains 26 editable PDFs and spreadsheets and resources that let you electronically record this information easily. It is only $26.75 and is a bargain for the value. Check out the details on our website.
If you would like help creating your Estate Preparedness Portfolio check out our on-site services for document archiving and creating a personal property inventory. Contact us today to schedule a phone call about the services.
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Have a blessed day!
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