5 Must-Have Documents You Need to Know About


Important documents and other paperwork always cause people to have questions of how much to keep and how long to keep it.

There are some legal documents that you should have and keep forever. Here is a list:

A Will

To distribute assets, choose guardians for your minor children and name an executor. Without it, your state may step in.

Living Will

Specifies your medical wishes, including declining life support if you are unable to make such decisions.

Medical Power of Attorney

Authorizes your designee to make medical decisions on your behalf if you’re unable to make such decisions.

Durable Power of Attorney

Authorizes your designee to make certain legal and financial decisions for you and to pay your bills.

Asset Lists

Itemizes your life insurance policies, land, retirement accounts, bank accounts, etc.

Here is more information on these must-have documents.

You should always have these documents prepared in the state in which you live, because laws vary state by state. Also, in order to find these and other documents when you need them, know what you should keep and what you can toss. This article will have give you ten questions to ask yourself when trying to decide what important paperwork you need to keep.

What important documents do you need to keep and for how long? That is the question — to keep or toss? It’s an issue that many people have. They don’t know, so they keep way more than necessary. A great list of 10 questions to assist in determining the correct answer for you is from Julie Morgenstern’s book, Time Management From The Inside Out.

For more on the subject ready 11 Essential Documents You Should Keep in Your Safe. Speaking of using a safe, you can purchase on on Amazon or office supply stores.

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Janet Schiesl

Janet has been organizing since 2005. She is a Certified Professional Organizer and the owner of Basic Organization. She loves using her background as a space planner to challenge her clients to look at their space differently. She leads the team in large projects and works one-on-one with clients to help the process move quickly and comfortably. Call her crazy, but she loves to work with paper, to purge what is not needed and to create filing systems that work for each individual client. Janet is a Past President of the Washington DC Chapter of the National Association of Productivity and Organizing Professionals (NAPO) and was voted 2016 Organizer of the Year by the Washington DC Chapter of NAPO.


  1. Seana Turner on April 1, 2019 at 8:55 am

    Never thought about an asset list. This is a great, concise list of what everyone needs. The process can feel overwhelming, but your list makes assembling the right documents feel more approachable. Definitely sharing!

    • Janet Schiesl on April 1, 2019 at 7:22 pm

      Thanks Seana. Have some guidelines can help with the overwhelm.

  2. Sabrina Quairoli on April 1, 2019 at 11:56 am

    The asset list is important. Keeping it updated yearly is a great way to make sure the executor won’t have issues settling your estate.

    Be sure to check with your lawyer to find out if you should have your accounts in a trust. In California, you are required to have your accounts in a trust or it will go into probate. I had to deal with this when I had to work on my mom’s estate.

  3. Linda Samuels on April 1, 2019 at 12:10 pm

    You made an excellent (and not an overwhelming) list! So often we postpone getting our essential papers in order because we don’t want to face making life/death decisions or because the task seems too immense. But if nothing else, the five documents you mentioned are an excellent starting point. We recently updated our wills and other important docs and it felt very good to know that if anything happened we protected our daughters and each other. There’s still more to do, but it was a crucial part.

    • Janet Schiesl on April 1, 2019 at 7:25 pm

      I agree Linda. When my boys reached adulthood I had to force them to do this. It was my last responsibility as a parent. Now I just am a Mom.

  4. Janet Barclay on April 5, 2019 at 12:47 pm

    We are covered for the first 4, but don’t have an asset list. My husband created one many moons ago, then forgot about it. By the time we found it in our files, we owned almost totally different stuff!

    • Janet Schiesl on April 6, 2019 at 10:55 am

      Funny Janet! Maintenance and review is important with this project.

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