Organize Your Documents

We all have dozens of important personal documents.   We may access some routinely, others once in a while, and others perhaps not for years.  Yet it’s important for us – and for others we designate – to know where these documents reside.  Are they in a safe deposit box?  A file drawer?  The household safe?

For this reason, we strongly recommend the use of a “Vital Documents Locator,” which provides a quick checklist of your important documents and where to find them.  You will find a copy of the Vital Documents Locator (VDL) on our website,, inside Estate Planning.

The VDL identifies more than 30 types of common, important documents, such things as last will and testament, health care proxy, stock and bond certificates, tax records, and deeds to property.  You may want to add other documents that you deem important.   A simple grid system makes it easy to fill out the locator, a task that likely would take less than 15 minutes.

In addition to yourself, others who should know where the VDL is kept – or who have a copy of it – may logically include a spouse, children, your estate executor, your power of attorney, and so forth. 

The VDL should be reviewed regularly, and the documents in it updated as necessary.  Your advisory professionals can recommend the frequency of such updates.

A closing note:  it is extremely helpful to identify documents that you do NOT have, as well as those you do have.  This can prevent someone, such as an executor, needlessly searching for something that doesn’t exist.