March 25, 2014   Estate Planning

Organize Your Information


Many people put off having the proper documents and organizing their information because they don’t want to think about their own death. But much of this same information will be needed if you become ill or injured and spend time in a hospital and rehabilitation.

Here is a general checklist of documents and information that should be updated and organized. You will surely think of more as you consider the information someone else would need in order to care for you and your loved ones if you are unable to tell them where to find it.

Take a weekend to start organizing your information now. Make sure someone you trust knows where to find everything. Then, at least once each year, review it and make sure it is current.

  • Estate planning documents. If you have a revocable living trust, your family will avoid court interference after your death and if you should become incapacitated. If you have minor children, a guardian will need to be named in a pour over will; otherwise a judge will appoint someone to raise your children without knowing your wishes. Many people procrastinate about this, but an experienced estate planning attorney can provide valuable guidance and make the task much easier.
  • Health care documents. A power of attorney for health care (also called an advance directive or health care proxy) lets you give someone legal authority to make health care decisions for you if you are unable to do so. Include coverage information for health-related insurance—medical, dental, disability income and long-term care. A list of medications (name, dosage, how often, purpose) and doctors (with phone numbers and specialty) will be very helpful.
  • Financial information. Make a list of your income (source and amount) and recurring bills with due dates. Also make a list of your assets (banking and investment accounts, retirement accounts, life insurance policies, home, vehicles, safe deposit box, etc.) and any debts (mortgage, line of credit, credit cards, etc.). Include the name of each institution, account numbers, phone numbers and any personal contact information you have, along with recent statements, loan documents and titles.
  • Access to computer files and online accounts. Make a list of online accounts, passwords, login information, and payment dates and amounts. Clean off your computer desktop and make it easy for someone you trust to find your accounting files and other important records. Protect yourself in the event your computer is stolen with password protection. Back-up your files frequently on a secure hard drive.
  • Other documents. These will include recent tax returns, birth certificates, marriage licenses, any divorce papers, passports, social security numbers and military discharge/separation papers.
  • Important contacts. Make a list of professional advisors (attorney, CPA, insurance agent, banker, etc.) and one of personal friends and associates who should be contacted in the event of your illness, injury or death.
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