Give your family a great gift: Get your own affairs in order

D.Ear savvy senior: I want to organize my personal, legal, and financial information so my kids know what’s going on when I’m gone. Can you offer any tips on how best to do this? – Disorganized Emma

Dear Emma: Organizing your important papers and getting your personal and financial affairs in order is a smart idea and a wonderful gift to give to loved ones. Here are some tips to get you started.

Organize yourself

The first step in getting your affairs in order is to get all of your important personal, financial, and legal information together so you can organize it in a format that will benefit you and your loved ones later on.

Then you need to sit down and make various lists of important information and instructions on how to handle certain things if you die or become incapacitated. Here is a checklist of areas to focus on.

Personal information

>> Contacts: Create a master list of names and phone numbers of close friends, doctors, and professional advisers such as your lawyer, accountant, broker, and insurance agent.

>> Medical information: Include a list of the medications you are taking along with allergies and diseases.

>> Personal documents: Include such items as your birth certificate, social security card, marriage certificate, military discharge papers, etc.

>> Secured places: List all devices and containers in which you keep important items under lock and key, e.g. B. Lockers and safes (with any combination), security alarms, etc.

>> Digital assets: Make a list of all of your digital assets, including everything from social media accounts to online banking accounts to home appliances that you manage online. It should contain usernames and passwords. Use the Rutgers Digital Assets Inventory Worksheet (njaes.rutgers.edu/money/pdfs/digital-assets-worksheet.pdf) as a guide.

>> Pets: If you have a pet, provide instructions on how to care for the animal.

>> End of life: Include your organ and tissue donation preferences and write your funeral instructions. If you’ve made arrangements with a funeral home, include a copy of the agreement, contact information, and details of the prepayment.

Legal documents

>> Will, trust and estate planning: Include the original copy of your will and any other estate planning documents you have prepared.

>> Financial power of attorney: This document names a person whom you trust to handle money matters when you are incapacitated.

>> Living wills: This includes a living will and a doctor’s power of attorney, which set out your wishes regarding your medical treatment at the end of your life, if you can no longer decide for yourself.

Financial records

>> Financial accounts: Make a list of all of your bank, broker, and mutual fund accounts, as well as any other financial assets you own.

>> Debt and Liabilities: Make a list of all the loans, leases, or debts you have – mortgage debt, car loans, student loans, medical bills, credit card debt. Also, make a list of all credit and charge cards, including card numbers and contact information.

>> Advantages for companies: List any retirement plans, annuities, or health benefits from your current or former employer, including the contact information of the benefit administrator.

>> Insurance: List your insurance policies (Life, Care, Household, Auto, Medicare, Medigap, Prescription Drugs, etc.), including policy numbers, agents, and phone numbers.

>> Property: List properties, vehicles, and other properties that you own, rent, or lease, and attach documents such as deeds, titles, and loan or lease agreements.

>> Steer: Include the location of your tax records and the contact information of your tax advisor.

Keep all of your organized information and files in one convenient place, ideally in a fireproof filing cabinet or safe in your home. Also, make sure to check and update it every year, and don’t forget to let your kids know where to find it.

If you need help, get a copy of Get It Together: Organize Your Records So Your Family Won’t To on Nolo.com for $ 17.50 for the downloadable versions or $ 20 for a printed copy.


Jim Miller is a contributor on the NBC television program “Today” and the writer of “The Savvy Senior.” Send your questions to Savvy Senior, PO Box 5443, Norman, OK 73070; or visit savvysenior.org.


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