How to put together a Grab and Go Binder

About a year ago, I decided it would be in my best interest to take the time to put together records of everything that would be important in the case I would either need to vacate my home in an emergency or if I kicked the bucket and my loved ones needed to handle my affairs after I bought the farm. While I have no intentions of leaving anytime soon (in either capacity) I have seen the nightmares that exist when no effort is made to organize one’s finances and legal documents. It took me about a month from start to finish to gather the list of documents below. But now all I have to do is make a few updates a couple of times a year, and my binder stays current. This is something EVERYONE should MAKE the time to do. If not for themselves, then for anyone they care about who might have to sort through their crazy trail of accounts and paperwork down the road. Cause you never know. Any one of us could go belly-up at any time.

In my case, all of my family’s original official documents (SS cards, Birth Certificates, etc) are stored in a safe deposit box. I choose to keep copies of them in my binder only. And my binder is stored in a locked safe at home, so it would not be easy for a robber to pick up and steal pretty much every bit of my personal financial and legal information. They’d really have to work at it. I also have the intent to scan every one of these documents and save them on a thumb drive to give to a trusted relative to store in THEIR safe deposit box, but that part I have not gotten around to yet. That’s on the “Someday” list. Ok, here we go!

  1. Buy a big fat 3-ring binder with pockets. Get at LEAST a 3 inch one, preferably 5 inch, and make it a quality one, not a cheapo one. You’ll be using this a long time, and if you DID have to run off with it, you don’t want one that’s going to fall apart on you.
  2. Get clear plastic pages for inside the binder. That way you can insert your contents in the plastic pages without having to use a hole punch every time you add something, and it makes it easier to move documents around and keeps the pages cleaner and more protected.
  3. SD card that has a movie of your home and its contents as well as your children, for insurance and identification purposes
  4. Copies of Social security cards
  5. Copies of Birth certificates
  6. Copies of family death certificates
  7. Copy of front and backs of all credit cards and group member cards in my purse and in my husband’s wallet. If your wallet is stolen, you know what was in there and who to call (numbers are usually on the backs of the cards) to report them stolen. Update these whenever you get new cards in the mail.
  8. Recent photos of entire family and pets
  9. Finger prints
  10. Insurance declaration pages and agents phone numbers and address
  11. Bank information, phone number, address
  12. List of all bills, due dates, address, phone numbers
  13. Make a list of auto-pay bills- ones that are automatically charged to your credit card each month. If you are pushing up daisies, your family can call and stop the auto pay on those first.
  14. Phone numbers and addresses for family, friends and physicians. We rely on technology way too much. Assume your cell phone bit the dust and you can’t quick dial anyone.
  15.  If you live near a nuclear plant -evacuation routes
  16.  State map and surrounding states
  17.  Last years taxes
  18.  Copies of Passports
  19.  Copies of driver’s license and professional license
  20.  Health insurance cards
  21.  IP addresses of resourceful websites such as:
    SHTF is
    drudge is
    the woodpile is
    essential intelligence is is is is
    This is just in case the government shuts down any websites you may use you can still look it up by typing the IP address in the tool bar.
  22. Copies of Car titles, mortgage note or any ownership documents
  23. Copy of Life Insurance policies
  24. Copy of Homeowners Policy
  25. Investment account statements (the annual one from the end of the year is fine. Update annually)
  26. Copies of appraisals and pictures of articles of value (jewelry, art, etc)
  27.  Vaccine records
  28. Medical records- ask your Dr’s offices for a printout of your and your kid’s medical records. You might have to pay a few bucks to get them, but they are worthwhile. If you have gotten individual life insurance policies and had the medical exam and blood work done, call and ask for a paper copy of the results of that testing. Those are VERY valuable to have in your binder. If nothing else, you have a baseline for all of your medical numbers for future reference.
  29. Note each family member’s blood type, and make copies of Blood Donor cards
  30.  Copy of proof of car insurance
  31. Copy of Wills,Power of Attorneys, and Living Wills (if you don’t have these, GET THEM DONE. Now. As soon as you finish reading this list.)
  32. Copies of Trusts
  33. Copies of Resumes
  34. Have copies made of a few of your favorite family photos so if you couldn’t get home or your house ceased to exist you would still have a few that are important to you
  35. Pet vaccination records/pedigrees. Pet microchip paperwork and registration.
  36. Ancestry documents
  37.  If you have legal documents for child custody this must be included. If the SHTF and your ex refuses to return your child, the police will view it as a civil matter and burden of proof will be on you.
  38. Now because I am anal retentive about this, I even prepared my funeral wishes- readings, songs, etc for my funeral Mass. I did that so family will know what I want and won’t have to pick anything out in their grief, wondering if I would have been pleased with their choices. Not that I’ll care too much. I’ll hopefully be playing the harp with St. Peter. But for their sake, I did it. And there better be kegs at the after-party. Yes, I said after-party. We’re Irish Catholic. That’s what we do after funerals.
  39.  Place folded flat N95 mask for each person in the home and a pair of latex gloves in a manila envelope and include this in your binder.
  40. Tell a trusted family member that your binder exists and where it is secured. Since ours is in our safe, I have one family member besides my husband and me who knows the combination. That way if my husband and I meet our Maker at the same time, someone knows where it is and how to get to it without heavy duty machinery.
  41. If you are having trouble thinking of everything you need to organize, get the book Get It Together: Organizing your Records so Your Family Won’t Have To, by NOLO. It’s on Amazon for a reasonable price and includes a CD Rom- slap it in your computer and answer the questions. Then print out your document and put it in your binder with all of the application supporting documentation. Easy as that.
  42. Did you count how many euphemisms for death I weaseled into this post? Hey, can’t take life too seriously. We all gotta cash in our chips one of these days!