Losing important documents can be a nightmare, and as we go through life accumulating an assortment of valuable certificates, legal papers and critical information they can either be shoved in a drawer somewhere or kept in a safe place.
While keeping important documents safe may not be about being tidy and well organised, proper documentation can make it much easier to keep track of important information in the long run.
6 Types of Important Documents to Keep Safe
Passport and travel
Before you leave on holiday you should get certified copies of your passport so that you have a record of it in case it’s lost or stolen.
And while travelling, the safest place to keep your passport is on your person. When you’re moving through airports or other busy areas and may have to show your passport more than once, you can keep your passport secure in a money belt. A money belt is much safer than a carry-on bag; allowing you to keep your passport on your person and easily accessible (to you) at any moment. And when you don’t need your passport, you should lock it away in a safe, dry environment.
Replacing your passport is both costly and time-consuming. Whether your passport is lost or stolen, you must phone the Australian Government Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade on 131 232 or contact your nearest Australian diplomatic or consular mission to report it lost or stolen.
You must report your passport lost or stolen as soon as possible to avoid any penalties from The Australian Passports Act 2005. These legal provisions will ultimately help to protect you and others against identity theft.
And make sure your passport is really lost or stolen before you make a report. Once it’s reported, you won’t be able to use it again, even if it’s found or recovered. It’s also a criminal offence to make false or misleading statements with penalties of up to 10 years imprisonment or a fine of 1000 penalty units, or both.
According to ASIC (the Australian Securities and Investments Commission), nearly $5 million in life insurance benefits were reported to be unclaimed in 2020-21 . Often the person who took out the policy (and knows where the policy documents are) may not be the one to make a claim. Additionally, if details of a life insurance policy aren’t included in a Will, beneficiaries may not be aware they can make a claim.
If the beneficiary knows where the policy documents are, they can decide the best way to keep track of important policies.
With Budget Direct you can receive your policy documents in your inbox, and instead of waiting for the mail, you’ll be able to access your insurance document through your emails in seconds.
Mortgage and property
Your mortgage documents can prove to be invaluable and are very helpful if a title, insurance, tax or legal question is raised. They should ideally be kept in a fireproof and waterproof safe in your home or a safe deposit box at your bank. If you don’t have access to either of these then a lockable filing cabinet may suffice. If you ever do require a copy of your mortgage documents, your lender should be able to provide these however they most likely will require substantial proof of identity and a cost for the re-issue of documents.
Your original Will is likely kept with your attorney, but you should have also received at least 2 copies for you to keep. One copy should be kept in a safe that’s both waterproof and fireproof or in another secure location, and the second copy should be kept in a locked safe in your home. Someone who you trust must also be aware of your Will’s location, ideally the Executor named in your Will.
If your loved ones aren’t able to locate your Will, they should contact the Law Society in your state who may be of assistance. Worst case scenario is if the Will cannot be located. Then depending on which state in Australia you live, a court will appoint the Executor to manage the payment of your taxes and debts from your assets and then distribute whatever is left over to whoever the court deems as the beneficiaries. This scenario is not ideal and can be very stressful to loved ones, and your assets most likely will not be distributed in the way you would have wanted.
Whether you’re an employee or running your own business, maintaining correct tax records isn’t just good practice – it’s a legal requirement.
And as anyone who has ever been audited can tell you, having all your paperwork and receipts in order can make all the difference in how stressful (and costly) your ATO audit turns out to be. According to ATO, you must keep your written evidence for five years from the date you lodge your tax return.
Everyone has a birth certificate, and it’s a good idea to keep the original in a safe deposit box or another secure location. If you ever need to access your birth certificate make sure you keep a certified copy in a secure filing cabinet or safe in your home.
If your birth certificate is ever lost, damaged or destroyed then you can replace it. The cost to do so will vary per state. Some states provide free replacement life event certificates to those who have had their certificates lost, damaged or destroyed in a declared disaster area.
How to Keep Important Documents Safe
How you store your documents is a personal decision, but here are a few things you should consider before you make any decisions:
How secure is your home?
Is the area where you store your important documents safe and secure?
Are your computers (including your phone) able to be easily accessed and who (if anyone) knows your passwords?
Would you consider storing your documents in a bank safety deposit box, a private secure storage facility or another off-site location?
Should you invest in a home safe, and if so, what kind?
Safe deposit box
It’s a good idea to store original documents including birth certificates, Wills, tax returns and power of attorney documents in a safe deposit box. Safe deposit boxes are typically kept at your bank or credit union so you can rest assured that these important documents are safe and secure.
Original documents or copies that you need to keep at home can be kept in a home safe. Your home safe should at least be fireproof, waterproof (if possible) and have a secure locking mechanism. While you can opt for a small portable safe, they do not offer the same protection as a heavier safe that’s securely bolted to the floor.
A home safe allows you to access important documents at a moment’s notice and keeps them safe from emergency events, like fires or floods.
Secure Life Insurance Cover
Budget Direct also offers paperless policy documentation which means that as long as you have access to your phone, computer or the internet, your insurance policy details are safe, secure and accessible.
When you’re with Budget Direct you can feel secure in knowing that our insurance policies are issued by NobleOak, with a wealth of care and experience. Any of our Life Insurance policies are fully underwritten when you buy them, instead of when you need to claim.