If you needed to access important personal records, could you quickly find what you need? If not, there's no time like the present to get organized, particularly with a new year fast approaching. Avoid messy, time-consuming searches with these tips.

Gather What Matters
Ask yourself what documentation you or a family member might need in a dire situation and put it all in a safe place, whether that's on a USB flash drive, in a fireproof box or both. Include emergency contact numbers, medical records, financial information, vital passwords, legal paperwork and other relevant documents. You can also download free mobile apps that help you prepare for and respond to the unexpected.

Streamline Insurance Paperwork
If you recently bought a new car or added a driver to your policy, make sure to create a digital paper trail. Take photos of the insurance cards for each driver and scan the policy information for your vehicles.

Did you purchase a home, remodel your house or take out a renter's insurance policy? Keep a copy of your home inventory on hand. Apps such as Insurance Information Institute's Know Your Stuff help by exporting an organized list of your belongings should you ever need to file a claim.

Plan for Tax Time
Though the IRS doesn't begin processing tax returns until mid-January, you can get ahead of the game by organizing your business expenses and charitable deductions before your W-2 comes in. And technology can simplify the process; several smartphone apps, like OneReceipt, Expensify and iDonatedIt, center around cataloging receipts, miles, donations and more. Even the IRS has an app (IRS2Go) that provides general tax help and information.

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