15 must-have records for your personal and family files

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15 must-have records for your personal and family files

Life as a grownup comes with its privileges: eating Froot Loops for dinner and going for a walk in a downpour, if the spirit moves you. We all appreciate those moments of indulgence, knowing that they’re made possible by all those times we put our noses to the grindstone to take care of the mundane tasks that keep our lives on track. The perfect example: maintaining a set of comprehensive personal and family records to grease the wheels when it’s time for important financial and legal transactions.

Whether your family needs cash for a big house repair while you’re deployed, it’s time to buy a new car, or a child needs emergency medical treatment, being able to put your finger on the right information to smooth legal and financial arrangements can save you the agony of a frantic fact-hunt during a stressful time. Filing important records where your spouse or other authorized friend or family member can find them should you be unavailable ensure your family can get help fast should any emergencies arise.

Sound like the kind of peace of mind that would leave you relaxed enough to, say, enjoy a bowl of Froot Loops for dinner before taking a walk in the pouring rain? Spend the time up front to gather, organize, and safely file your personal and family records. Much of these records consist of nothing more than writing down important facts (like your current address) for ready availability when it’s needed quickly. Here’s what you’ll need to build a complete file.

  1. Birthdates and birthplaces for all family members, including certified birth certificates
  2. Social Security Numbers for the whole family
  3. Permanent home address, along with a chronological list of past residences and the dates you lived there
  4. Dates and places of any adoption and legal guardianship records
  5. Certified copies of legal court orders defining custody arrangements for children from a previous marriage
  6. Date and location of your current marriage, along with a certified copy of your marriage license
  7. Details of previous marriages, including the name and current address of former spouse(s), date and type of termination of former marriages (divorce, annulment, or death), divorce or annulment judgment orders, and decrees or agreements, as well as documents related to spousal and child support and death certificates of former spouses
  8. Copies of divorce or annulment decrees from prior marriage(s), as well as any documents related to obligations with spousal/child support
  9. Names, addresses, and telephone numbers of locations where your unmarried children (including adopted children and stepchildren) between the ages of 18 and 26 years of age are enrolled in a full-time course of instruction
  10. Statement from licensed physician or medical officer for dependent children over 21 years of age who are mentally or physically disabled, including the period of disability that affirms that the dependents are incapable of self-support because of illness or injury; include copies of court orders appointing you as legal guardian
  11. Copy of court order stating that you are the natural parent of any children born out of wedlock, along with a copy of the court decision that you contribute to the child’s support or a written admission of parentage by you if there was no court order
  12. Naturalization and citizenship papers for you, your parents, and anyone in your family who was born outside the United States
  13. Full names, places, and birthdates of your parents
  14. Health records for every family member, including records of vaccinations, surgeries, significant medical conditions, and past illnesses or injuries, along with names and addresses of physicians and hospitals, receipts and bills for health care providers, prescription drugs, and medical appliances in current use
  15. Title and address of the official in charge of voting at your current legal residence (so you can arrange for absentee ballots)

When time is short and you need to get your affairs in order before a deployment or other major life event, pull out our advice on how to make critical legal and financial arrangements.

Posted in: Personal Finance
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