We don’t realise until we need them, and are searching for them, how many valuable documents, legal papers and critical pieces of information, we have accumulated over the span of our life. For many, storage of these important documents is haphazard. A filing cabinet? Perhaps. Organised? Not really. Bits of paper piled up in a drawer? Quite likely.
Important documents can be easily lost. Fires, floods or even just renovating or moving house. They could even be stolen, for the purpose of identity theft.
Police allege stolen personal identification documents were used to acquire credit cards, which were used to obtain cash, cryptocurrency, telecommunication equipment and household goods. Luxury handbags and vehicles were also obtained through use of stolen personal information.
Keeping good records isn’t just about being tidy and well organised. Proper storage of key documents makes it easier for you to meet your legal obligations, and work with your financial planner. It also helps your peace of mind, manage family dynamics and reduce stress when you are no longer here.
So what are the family’s most important documents? And how can you keep them safe?
Home and contents, car, health, life insurance. These are all important documents that need to be kept securely stored. Life insurance is one, in particular, that can lead to major issues for family members, if it can’t be found. What happens if you die, and your beneficiaries can’t find your policy? What if they don’t know who it was with or even that you had a policy at all? According to ASIC (the Australian Securities and Investments Commission), there are tens of millions of dollars of unclaimed life insurance money in Australia, which just goes to show how difficult it is, to track down life insurance policies.
Life insurance is an extremely valuable document. In terms of paying out substantial funds to your loved ones to cover the costs of your rehabilitation, or providing for your family, if something unexpected happened to you. And the details of your policies are not in your Will either.
However, you can detail and store copies of all your policies in your Anticipate Life account. You can even provide limited access to some of those documents, to your financial planner, to help you reach your life goals.
PROPERTY and FINANCIAL DOCUMENTS
The longer you live in your home, the more paper work you gather, related to that property. Mortgage papers, property deeds and other related documents, like termite inspections, electrical compliance, renovation and building plans, are important documents, especially if you want to sell.
And of course, there are other financial documents - the information on which needs to be kept safe. Trust deeds, bank accounts, investments, superannuation, tax returns. There is a whole criminal industry, focussed on extracting credit card information from unsuspecting victims. Some criminals even steal mail from your letterbox to gain banking and other personal secrets. Fortunately, we can now receive or view many of our financial statements online. Although we should always continue to be vigilant about “phishing” (fishing) emails, that look legitimate and which often prompt you to click a link, which takes you to another fake webpage, where the scammers can extract your confidential information.
Any of these important property and financial documents, and related information, can be stored in your Anticipate Life account, easy for you to access and update.
Your Will is one of THE most important documents you have - IF you have one. Our research has found that more than 50% of adult Australians don’t have a valid Will. That’s nearly 10 million people!
If you die without a Will - called “intestate” - a court appointed administrator will deal with everything. They pay your taxes and any bills and then distribute what’s left to a specified formula. This is time consuming (we have heard of some beneficiaries still waiting after more than 2 years for the estate to be finalised!), and stressful for your loved ones. And more than likely, your assets will not be distributed how you would have liked. Sadly, dying without a Will is far more common than you imagine. In 2021, the WA Law Society stated that, nearly 50% of West Australians die without a Will.
More than 14% of people falsely believe that a Will is only necessary if you have a large estate.
You may not have a house, or a share portfolio, but there may be bank accounts or superannuation, life insurance or even other assets, owned jointly, that need to be shared. Writing a Will ensures your loved ones will be better off, even if only reducing the pressure of hard decision making.
But what good is having a Will, if it can’t be found? Your original Will should be stored in a safe location - usually a fire-proof safe at the Public Trustees or Will Bank or solicitor's office.
A copy of your Will can be stored in your Anticipate Life account and having your Executor attached to your AL account, ensures that a trusted person knows where it and the original are located.
And if you don’t have a Will, or haven’t quite got around to it, at least you can start with the Will plan in your Anticipate Life account.
Better you make a considered decision, than have it happen by default and have your family live with the consequences after you’ve passed away - Kate Browne, Personal Finance Expert
Anticipate Life - helping you look after your important documents.