3 Tips To Organize Your Tax and Financial Records
Do you belong to the Accumulate and Procrastinate School of Recordkeeping?
For some, the thought of getting organized can be quite overwhelming. And let’s be honest, sorting through years of paperwork such as bank statements, taxes, insurance documents, medical records and anything else you’ve kept over the years does not sound like much fun. However, being organized saves time, reduces paper and can also lead to a more efficient estate transfer.
Gather documents. Organize all of your documents, including, the stacks of papers that have been piling up on the kitchen counter or dining room table. After you have gathered everything discard all non-relevant documents. Make sure to shred anything that has personal information on it such as account numbers or social security numbers.
Identify the main file headings. After it’s been determined what documents are being kept, sort once more. This can include:
- Financial Records– bank statements, cancelled checks, loan statements, credit card statements, social security statements, pension statements
- Investments – brokerage statements, brokerage account records, mutual fund statements, retirement plans
- Income Tax Information – tax returns, amended returns, charitable contributions, and all tax reporting documents such as W-2s, 1099-R, 1099-Int, and 1099-Div
- Insurance and Annuities – all documents pertaining to life, homeowner’s, car, long-term care, personal property, Disability and group insurance
- Estate Documents – current last will and testament, power of attorney, trust documents, beneficiary information and living will and medical directives
- Legal Documents – real estate settlement sheets, deeds, personal property titles, marriage/divorce certificates, birth/death certificates, passports
- Employment/Military Records – recent copy of resume, military orders, military discharge papers, veterans information, education transcripts/degrees
- Medical – name of pertinent doctors, current medications, family medical history, medical receipts
- Home – receipts and warranties, record of repairs and improvements, real estate assessments, property appraisals, listing of home inventory and values
Store the records. After everything has been sorted, decide where the documents will be kept. Will they be stored in a filing cabinet? If so, should it be in a fireproof cabinet? Will they be kept in a safe deposit box or stored electronically on a computer?
How long to keep records. Now that you’re all organized, you might be wondering how long you’ll need to keep all these documents. Here are a few guidelines.
Permanently – social security cards, military records, marriage/divorce certificates, birth/adoption certificates, custody agreements, life insurance and annuity policies, naturalization and citizenship papers, education and employment records, estate documents, funeral and burial instructions, and death certificates
7 Years – year end bank, brokerage, retirement, and credit card statements, cancelled checks, income tax returns and supporting documents
Until Update – listing of all safe deposit box contents, monthly bank statements, quarterly retirement statements, listing of all credit card numbers, annual insurance policy declarations, household inventory
Until Disposal – cost basis information, vehicle titles, service contracts and warranties, real estate deeds and settlement sheets, loan statements
Once your financial affairs are in order, it’s extremely important your spouse or another family member has a thorough understanding of where all documents are stored. Communication is a MUST – especially in the event of an unforeseen circumstance.