September's challenge: backup your paperwork

talley_sue_nycSeptember 7, 2005

On our thread about "what would you take in an evacuation," there was this comment:

We have copies of everything in our safety deposit box. WE also have given my parents and John's parents copies of the same-- birth certificates, wedding licence, house inventory, insurance policy information, will, etc.

Here's the challenge for you all. Pick a place to keep backups of all those sort of stuff--your mom or sister several states away, for example.

(I've heard that your backup site shouldn't be in the same geographical region as your home--if your city is flooded out, you won't be able to get to your safety deposit box in the bank down the street)

Prepare all that stuff, and send it there.

And let's help each other decide what should be in it, and how to get it.

Should be get duplicates of everyone's birth certificate, for example? And how do you get them?

Do you have a household inventory? What's the best way to get one--make a video of the whole house, perhaps? Or a list? What kind of stuff needs to be on it, and what kind of stuff can be omitted?

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I like the idea of taking a video of the whole house -- that's key for replacement cost homeowner's insurance. Better yet, take the video, burn it on a CD, make multiple copies and stash them in your safe deposit box, at home, and at your backup site. They're small, light, and hard to damage.

I believe you can get copies of your birth certificates from the town hall in the town in which you/your spouse/your kids were born.

A copy of your driver's license and credit cards is also important, as well as a list of your investments/bank accounts. A list of your insurance policies and policy numbers (life, health, auto, homeowners) is also good to have. Also a copy of your will and any other legal documents (marriage license, divorce papers, adoption papers, passport info, etc.)

Not to be too much of a curmudgeon, but it goes without saying your backup keeper would have to be someone you trust completely and who will be very careful and physically able to keep this info safe, since there would be a real risk of identity theft if this info fell into the wrong hands.

Great idea for a thread, I have to think about this a bit more.

    Bookmark   September 7, 2005 at 4:02PM
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Hi All, I've never posted here before, but I'm an admiring lurker. For your emergency paperwork file, you may want to include copies of your most recent state and federal income tax returns; these can be useful for FEMA applications or emergency bank loans.

If you want additional copies of birth certificates and don't live in the county where the birth occurred, you can get copies through the state's vital records office. I'm attaching a link to direct you to the correct agency.

Here is a link that might be useful: Vital Records Offices

    Bookmark   September 8, 2005 at 10:30AM
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A couple of thoughts:

I remember the last time I needed a copy of my birth certificate, it had to be a "certified" copy with an official government imprint. Merely photocopying a certified copy would not have been sufficient. Think about what you will need the birth certificate for and get the "right" copy.

Better yet, take the video, burn it on a CD, make multiple copies and stash them in your safe deposit box, at home, and at your backup site. They're small, light, and hard to damage.

While CDs or DVDs are easier to store and somewhat more resistant to damage through use than tapes, a looming issue is the future of digital storage. There already are reports of people who burned cheapo CD-Rs years ago who now cannot recover the information. Earlier this year, the company at which I work (a Dow Jones company whose name you all would recognize) had to employ four computer hobbyists to recover some legal-related information which someone had created on low-density floppies from a software program which is no longer produced. We recovered it, but the process of doing so wasn't pretty.

And, even if the data is maintained perfectly forever, formats change. Seen an 8" floppy drive lately? Ever heard of a Bernoulli disk? MO? Zip disk? DC2000 tape? Does your current computer even have a floppy drive -- of any size? Do you know if you can open files you created in software that's three or four versions old, perhaps on a completely different operating system?

I don't mean to be alarmist. And I'm pretty much as big a geek as they come. But, so far, the history of digital technology does not seem to offer the lifespan of simple ink-on-paper or silver-halide photographs or slides. People who want to store digital information either risk losing that information over time or must commit themselves to examining that information periodically and transferring the data again to avoid media failure and obsolescence.

    Bookmark   September 9, 2005 at 12:56PM
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AMEN, Steve! I've said this (maybe not here, but I think so) now and then, too! That's one of my big resistances to the digital photograph craze--they don't get printed out very often; their prints are less durable, anyway; and in 20 years, nobody's going to be able to look at them!

Awhile ago, a grandma wrote to Ann Landers; grandpa had passed away, and before he died he wrote a letter to tiny little granddaughter for her to read when she was 16 or something. The disk w/ the letter was in the safety-deposit box. Grandma was dying to know what it said; would it be bad of her to read it? I don't think Ann mentioned that SOMEBODY should go get it and print it out now--bcs in 10 years, nobody is gonna have Work Perfect for 5.25" floppy disks!

One thing I'm thinking, lots of the stuff people are mentioning (recent tax forms; current homeowners' insurance) is stuff you'd have to update periodically--I sense a ongoing chore.

If I sent my stuff to my mom in Iowa, I'd have to be sure she'd be willing (and organized enough to) put new stuff in if I mailed it to her. And when I visited, I'd need to go through the box and throw outdated stuff out.

There's an inherent difficulty in this scheme, I see.

    Bookmark   September 14, 2005 at 9:40AM
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