Money reboot: sort out your paperwork

Getting your important paperwork in order is essential to have a clear view of your money. It will also protect you and your family from stress and risk in the case of an emergency.

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There’s nothing exciting about collecting, sorting and updating your paperwork. And it can be overwhelming, which may put you off doing it. But it will help ensure that you and your loved ones can quickly find important information when it’s needed it most.  Here are 4 steps to help you get it done.


Step 1: Get it together

Gather your financial information and important documentation. This includes anything that affects your finances, such as your savings, investment and retirement annuity information; short-term and life insurance policies; medical aid and insurance information. Also include all your personal information (e.g. your ID book or smart ID card, passport, marriage contract, birth certificates and will).

The information may be digital or paper-based; ask the service provider for if you can’t find it.


Step 2: Clean up!

Shred or burn anything that is no longer valid or has expired, such as old receipts. Do the same for anything you have duplicated in digital format, or could scan and store digitally. Even if you’re keeping the hard copies, it’s a smart idea to make digital backups. This will help you to replace them if they get lost.


Step 3: Get organised

Create a place where you can store everything together securely – it's a good idea to have a digital and physical version where possible. For your digital folder, consider using a cloud storage facility such as Google Drive so that you can always access your documents, even if something happens to your device. It’s essential to keep this information secure and safe from others, but make sure that your loved ones will be able to find the folder and can access it in the event of an emergency, or your death.

Your folder should include:

  • Your updated last will and testament, or the details of where it is stored
  • Birth certificates
  • Medical aid and medical information
  • Banking information
  • Tax details and records
  • Property ownership details and documents
  • Details of all your provident, pension and retirement annuity policies or funds
  • Investment accounts
  • Short-term insurance policies (vehicle and household insurance)
  • Long-term insurance policies (life insurance, funeral cover, critical illness, income protection cover)

If you have all this information digitally, make a separate electronic copy to give to your lawyer, financial adviser or someone you trust to use in case of an emergency.


Step 4: Create or update your will

A will is a legal document that outlines what should happen to your assets and your dependants after your death. If you have children, think carefully about who should be their legal guardian in the event of your death, and update your will to reflect this.

If you die without a will, state legislation will decide what happens to your assets and your dependants – regardless of what you wanted. This could take years and have very serious consequences for your family.

A will must meet certain legal requirements, but it doesn't have to be complicated. It can be created quickly and simply to ensure that your loved ones are protected. Your bank or financial advice service provider may be able to help you draw up your will – many offer this service for free. There are also online services that you can use for free or for a low fee.

Remember to review and update your will every time your circumstances change. For instance when you get married or divorced; your spouse dies; your children are born; and if you buy or sell assets such as a house or have new investments. You should always update it to reflect your current wishes.

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