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Financial Fitness: Financial Records: Keeping it all Organized

By Ranelle Hampy
Senior Vice President & Trust Officer


Everyone has a paper trail everything from utility bills and financial statements to tax records and receipts. With so many records looming in drawers and file cabinets throughout your home, it may be difficult to determine which you should keep (and for how long).

Filing and organizing records is critical to maintaining healthy finances. Not only will tax time be easier, but your spouse and other family members will be able to locate important information should the unexpected happen to you.

Following these guidelines may help you organize your records.
Bank documents: Destroy checks that have no permanent importance, but keep checks related to your taxes, business expenses, housing and mortgage payments.
Utility bills: Shred your utility bills, unless you need them for tax purposes.
Tax records: Most experts recommend destroying your tax records after six years.
Insurance records: Keep for the life of your policy.
Life documents (birth certificate, marriage license, diplomas, divorce decrees and military records): It is important to store these documents in a safe deposit box indefinitely. They are difficult to replace and become dangerous should they fall into the wrong hands.
Homeowner records (deed and title to your house): Keep these records in your files.
Life- and estate-planning documents: Keep the most current copy in your files.
Receipts for major purchases, such as furniture and electronics: Keep these receipts for as long as you own the item.

Stay Organized
It's also important to keep a document locator, a list of where your records are and how to access them. Include each type of account, the identification number and contact information of the appropriate agent. If a bank is named in a will as an executor or trustee, the bank will maintain a copy of it, but it's important to store your will and other key documents in a safe place. It's equally as important for a trusted family member or friend to know where they are. In the case of death or incapacitation, locating vital documents quickly is just another way to ease a very difficult situation.

Let the Bank Help Keep Your Records Secure
Bank safe deposit boxes are a safe and secure way to keep original copies of your most important documents. Typically, a variety of safe deposit boxes are available to suit your needs. Safe deposit boxes are an excellent choice for residents of the gulf coast. They have a much better chance of surviving a tropical storm or hurricane than a storage box in your home.

Develop an Estate Plan
One of the most important documents you can create is an estate plan. This document will ensure that your family and financial goals are met after you die. Dying without a will can be very costly to your heirs, both financially and emotionally, and leaves you no say in regard to your assets. Talk to your trust officer to learn how he or she can help you organize your assets and develop a secure plan for the future.

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