How To Organize Important Papers

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And teach your kids to do the same…

If you want your grown child to move out successfully, you should prepare them for independent living. One of the first things you can do to prepare is to teach your child learn how to organize important papers.

Doing life as adult means properly obtaining, tracking, storing, and even destroying highly important or sensitive documents.

How to Gather Essential Documents

Help your child gather their essential documents & teach them how to store them for safe-keeping. What are the essentials?

  1. Certified copy of their birth certificate
  2. Social Security card
  3. Health insurance information
  4. Medical records
  5. Passport, if they have one
  6. Driver’s license or government-issued identification card*

*IMPORTANT NOTE: While, not required, it is recommended that you get a REAL ID license or id card. Without it, you may find yourself unable to do certain things such as enter a federal facility, board an airplane, or buy firearms or ammunition.

If your driver’s license is up for renewal, you cannot just mail it in if you want the REAL ID. You need to go to the DMV in person with your original birth certificate, original social security card, and proof of State residence.

For more information about getting a REAL ID in California, visit the CA DMV’s REAL ID FAQ.

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Gather Additional Important Documents

Beyond the aforementioned basics, there are other documents any young adult should have at the ready.

  1. Educational records
  2. Immunization / Allergy Records
  3. Vehicle registration / ownership papers
  4. Proof of vehicle insurance
  5. Credit reports – Even if they don’t have a credit history, it’s a good idea to run credit reports, to make sure their identity wasn’t stolen. Why not? It’s free.

Documents Foster Youth Need

In order to access all the resources available to them after care, it’s important for foster youth to obtain additional documents. The American Bar Association recommends providing a young adult exiting the system with the following additional documentation:

  1. Letter including the dates that the youth was within jurisdiction of the court
  2. Letter including a statement that youth was in foster care, in compliance with financial aid documentation requirements
  3. Documentation of the youth’s health insurance or Medicaid
  4. Documentation of a health power of attorney for the youth
  5. Proof of the youth’s citizenship or legal residency
  6. Clear and age appropriate written instructions on filing a petition for the youth to re-enter care, including a completed sample petition  
  7. Clear and age appropriate written instructions on the filing process for accessing their case file
  8. Death certificates of the youth’s parents OR Termination of Parental Rights orders

In addition, the American Bar Association recommends obtaining through a court order if necessary:

  1. The youth’s entire educational records  
  2. The youth’s entire health and mental health records

If you are missing important documents or are having trouble tracking them down, the California Ombudsman for Foster Care website has a list of links to help you track them down.

How to Store Important Documents

how to organize and file important papers

​​After you’ve gather your documents it’s important to properly show them how to organize important papers so they stay easy to find, but safe. In those first precarious years, you may want to consider keeping copies (or the originals) at your home in case your kid loses track of them. 

Safewise recommends putting important documents in a plastic sleeve to protect them from spills. They then recommend placing them in a safety deposit box or home safe. Otherwise, a locked file cabinet is another good option.

You may also want to consider setting your kid up with digital or online storage. The primary advantage of digitizing their personal paperwork is that it gives them an edge should a fire, flood, or other disaster damage or destroy them. The Leavitt Group has more great ideas on How To Digitize Your Personal Documents.

How to dispose of sensitive information

One final important thing to discuss with your young adult is the proper disposal of any paperwork containing sensitive information.

Safewise writer, Hillary Johnston, recommends using the shredder. ​”At least once a month, shred your receipts, credit card offers, bank statements, expired credit cards, and utility payments you no longer need. Don’t ever throw out a receipt that came from a transaction you used your credit card with, as your number and/or name is likely on there and criminals can use that to their advantage.”

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Some Final Thoughts on Organizing Important Paperwork

While you teach your teen or adult child how to organize important papers, it’s a good time to get your own important documents in order. My paperwork is not yet this put together. Is yours?

This is just the beginning of a series of posts on helping your grown child move out and succeed independently. You should also consider reading:

How to Get Your Grown Child Move Out

10 Keys Success in Life

5 Tips for Dealing with a Lying Teen

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