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Important Records: Medical and Legal

There are a number of documents you need to keep in a safe place where you can find them when needed. It is a good idea to keep important records in a waterproof and fire-proof box.

Legal Records

The records to keep in a safe place include:

  • Bank and credit card account numbers
  • Contracts, home or other real estate deeds, lease or loan papers, bills of sale, car titles, mortgage records, stocks and bonds.
  • School records (report cards, degrees and certificates, transcripts)
  • Family records (birth certificates or proof of citizenship, marriage and death certificates, divorce papers, adoption records, military service records)
  • Financial statements (tax returns, accountant information)
  • Insurance policies
  • Inventory of possessions and their value (with photos)
  • List of important phone numbers (personal contacts and numbers for insurance, credit cards, or banks)
  • Passports, social security cards, immunization records
  • Wills
  • If you keep records on your computer, back up your system regularly. You could use a thumb drive, an online service, or a CD that can be kept in your fireproof box. Check each year to make sure your records are up to date. Keep separate records of user names and passwords for accounts

Keep unpaid bills until paid. Keep paid bills (power, water, phone) and current bank statements until you get the next statement. Keep information you need for income taxes, such as real estate taxes, medical bills, marriage certificates, for 3 years.

It is also a good idea to keep copies of house keys, car keys, and other keys you may need.

Birth Certificate

Your child's birth certificate is legal proof of date of birth and citizenship. The birth certificate is needed to start school, to get a driver's license, or to get a passport. It may also be needed to prove the right to vote, marry, get Social Security benefits, travel on an airplane, and to inherit property.

The staff at the hospital where your baby is born will register the birth with the local health department or registrar of births. If you have a home birth, be sure someone registers the birth.

You will receive notice when the birth record is filed. This notice is usually a copy of the registration or the birth certificate. Check to make sure the information is correct. Call the health department to get any mistakes fixed right away.

Make a few copies of the birth certificate. Keep at least one in a safe place like a safety deposit box.

Social Security Number

Most hospitals will give you the forms you need to get a Social Security card and number for your baby. You can also get the form and instructions online at http://www.ssa.gov. A Social Security number is needed to be claimed as a dependent on your tax return, to open a bank account, or to buy savings bonds. Some schools and government agencies may also require that you provide this number.

Health Records

You should have accurate health records for all members of the family. They are useful when you apply for health and life insurance. They also help healthcare providers know if certain diseases run in your family.

The family health records should include:

  • Immunization (shot) card with exact dates and types of all vaccines. (This is needed for children to be admitted to school.)
  • Any mental health or medical conditions
  • Any medicines taken
  • Injuries, when they happened, and any treatment received
  • Hospitalizations with dates, diagnoses, and treatments
  • Screening tests, such as tests to check vision and hearing, and any allergy testing, with dates and results
  • Healthcare provider names and contact information
  • Health insurance information
  • The dates and places of birth, medical history (diabetes, mental health problems, high blood pressure), and cause of death for all close family members
  • Any food or drug allergies (including reactions to vaccinations)
  • Advance directives (such as a living will and whether you want to be an organ donor)

You should carry some records with you when you leave the house:

  • Driver's license
  • Who to notify in case of an emergency
  • Information on allergies, health problems and medicines you take
  • Health, accident and car insurance information
  • Credit cards
Developed by RelayHealth.
Pediatric Advisor 2013.2 published by RelayHealth.
Last modified: 2012-01-04
Last reviewed: 2011-12-27
This content is reviewed periodically and is subject to change as new health information becomes available. The information is intended to inform and educate and is not a replacement for medical evaluation, advice, diagnosis or treatment by a healthcare professional.
© 2013 RelayHealth and/or its affiliates. All rights reserved.
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