The Documents You Need: Red File

The last item in the documents you need for an emergency series is the Red File. Now that you’ve compiled and stored all of your important documents, it’s time to take the last step of compiling the Red File and sending it to someone you trust. With that done, you can be confident that you’ve done everything you can to prepare for an emergency, a disaster, or your death.

What is a Red File?

Depending on your needs, it can be a box or an envelope. I recommend an envelope. Your friends or relatives might not want to store a whole box for you. It should be sealed and put away until you request it. In it, you’ll find your most important documents. Traditionally, it’s a red envelope, but it doesn’t have to be.

What Goes In It?

Your Red File should contain the following items, at a minimum:

  • List of accounts
  • Will/Trust
  • Advance directive
  • Color copies of your ID card, passport, green card, or other citizenship documents
  • Health insurance cards
  • Home inventory and backup photo CD
  • List of emergency contacts
  • Birth certificates

Where to Keep Your Red File?

You’ve already stored all of your personal copies of the documents you need for an emergency. This abbreviated file should be sent to a distant friend of relative. By distant I mean someone you’re emotionally close to, but physically distant from. For example, a trusted sibling who lives out of state. My parents live 400 miles away, so they have mine. My sister lives further away, but she already has enough trouble finding places to keep stuff in her teeny apartment.

Seal the envelope, then tape a letter of instruction on top. If you plan to mail it, place it inside another envelope so they don’t have to open it. Send them an updated file once a year, or sooner if your circumstances change. If not much changes in your life, then every two years might be sufficient.

And that’s it. All your documents are ready for an emergency. Tomorrow you’ll finish your emergency preparations with your disaster kit.

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