That fact is, not one of us knows when our last day on earth will be. There are a number of benefits to listing your assets, debts, and final wishes long before that day arrives, also known as “getting your affairs in order”. After you’re gone, many of the tasks and decisions your loved ones will have to handle usually aren't covered by basic estate planning documents, and without proper records, you’ve left them a major headache.
In addition, costly or painful losses can result from a failure to organize your affairs. Stocks, bonds, bank accounts, real estate, and insurance policy benefits may go unclaimed and be turned over to the state government. Each year, millions of dollars go into state treasuries because the rightful property owners couldn't be found. Fortunately, losses like these can be avoided with a little bit of planning and organizing.
Making things easier for your heirs is not difficult, but it may take a few hours to compile. Try breaking the task into manageable sections by identifying some broad categories of information:
wills, living trusts, deeds, and other important documents
former employers, current employers, pensions and retirement accounts
bank, money market, mutual fund accounts, stock and bonds
vehicle, recreational vehicle, and boat titles
service providers, memberships
mortgages, credit card accounts, outstanding debts
health care directives
organ or body donation, burial or cremation wishes
websites, email and social media accounts
letters to loved ones
family history, location of photographs and heirlooms
instructions on how to access items in safes, safe deposit boxes, and other locked or hidden places
Organize this information in a way that will help your family handle your affairs by listing account or policy numbers, contacts, phone numbers and passwords. You can structure the information any way you like. Even some scribbled notes left in an accessible location are better than nothing. It’s not hard to put it all in a spreadsheet or word document, or you can purchase organizational tools online. Revisit and update your affairs document once a year, perhaps when you are filing your taxes.
Store your information in a safe place, such as fireproof waterproof lockbox, a home safe, or safe deposit box. Be sure to discuss your records with those closest to you so they know where to find important papers when the time comes.
Many people experience a satisfaction from organizing their affairs. Taking a few hours to record this information and store it in a safe location will reduce the eventual burden on your loved ones. It can also allow you to experience the freedom of facing your mortality and addressing unfinished business. If you’d like more information on ways to protect your estate, we can help at Penny Lane Financial.