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Sunday January 16, 2022

Savvy Living

Savvy Senior

How to Get Your Affairs in Order

I would like to get my personal, legal and financial information organized so my children will know what is going on when I am no longer around. Can you offer any tips on the best way to accomplish this?

Organizing important documents and getting your personal and financial affairs in order is a smart idea and wonderful gift to your loved ones. Here are some tips to help get you started.

Get Organized


The first step in getting your affairs in order is gathering all of your important personal, financial and legal information so you can arrange it in a way that will benefit you now, and your loved ones later.

Then you will need to sit down and create various lists of important information and instructions of how you want certain issues handled when you pass away or if you become incapacitated. Here is a checklist of areas you should focus on.

PERSONAL INFORMATION

  • Contacts: Make 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 medications you take, along with any allergies and illnesses.
  • Personal documents: Include items such as your birth certificate, Social Security card, marriage license, military discharge papers, etc.
  • Secured places: List all the places you keep under lock and key such as safe deposit boxes, safe combination, security alarms, etc.
  • Digital assets: Make a list of all your digital assets, including everything from social media accounts to online banking accounts to home utilities that you manage online. Your list should include usernames and passwords.
  • Pets: If you have a pet, provide instructions for the care of the animal.
  • End of life: Indicate your wishes for organ and tissue donation and write out your funeral instructions. If you have made pre-arrangements with a funeral home, include a copy of the agreement, their contact information and whether you have prepaid or not for their services.

LEGAL DOCUMENTS

  • Will, trust and estate plan: Include the original copy of your will and other estate planning documents you have made.
  • Financial power of attorney: This document names someone you trust to handle financial matters if you are incapacitated.
  • Advance health care directives: This includes a living will and medical power of attorney, which explain your wishes regarding your end-of-life medical treatment when you can no longer make decisions for yourself.

FINANCIAL RECORDS

  • Financial accounts: Make a list of all your bank accounts, brokerage and mutual fund accounts, and any other financial assets you have.
  • Debts and liabilities: Make a list of any loans, leases or debts you have – mortgages owed, car loans, student loans, medical bills, credit card debts. Additionally, make a list of all credit and charge cards, including the card numbers and contact information.
  • Company benefits: List any retirement plans, pensions or health benefits from your current or former employer including the contact information of the benefits administrator.
  • Insurance: List the insurance policies you have (life, long-term care, home, auto, Medicare, Medigap, prescription drug, etc.) including the policy numbers, agents, and phone numbers.
  • Property: List real estate, vehicles and other properties you own, rent or lease and include documents such as deeds, titles, and loan or lease agreements.
  • Taxes: Include the location of your tax records and your tax preparer’s contact information.
Keep all your organized information and files together in one convenient location, ideally in a fireproof filing cabinet or safe in your home. Be sure to review and update it every year, and do not forget to tell your kids where they can find it.

Savvy Living is written by Jim Miller, a regular contributor to the NBC Today Show and author of "The Savvy Living" book. Any links in this article are offered as a service and there is no endorsement of any product. These articles are offered as a helpful and informative service to our friends and may not always reflect this organization's official position on some topics. Jim invites you to send your senior questions to: Savvy Living, P.O. Box 5443, Norman, OK 73070.

Published January 14, 2022
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