What if an unfortunate event left you incapacitated and unable to communicate? What if you were to die tomorrow? Would your loved ones know where to locate important information about your financial accounts, insurance, taxes, estate plans, etc?
Many people have made efforts to plan for life’s "what ifs" – the problem is, humans cannot read minds. If you don’t adequately communicate to your loved ones the names of the companies or experts with whom they should work should it become necessary, they won't know where to start.
No matter what your age or life stage, organizing and communicating this information is crucial so that your family will be able to find the information they need to manage or settle your affairs if needed.
How do I start the organization process?
It is recommended you start by making a list of all the legal and financial documents and accounts you have. Once you have this list, you will want to think where to store the information (originals and copies) so that they are secure and accessible for your family if needed. You will also want to ensure that you have stored your sensitive information and vital documents in a secure place so they won’t be lost, stolen, or damaged.
Print this Financial Inventory tracking document
What types of documents would I organize?
In the case of an emergency, you would want your family or agent to be able to access your medical and insurance records. Depending on the situation and how long you might be unable to handle your own affairs, you would also want to consider monthly documents like utilities, bills, income, memberships, etc.
In the event of a death, you would want your family or agent to be able to locate and access your final documents (i.e. will, trust). You may also wish to provide any final wishes or specific information in regard to your preferences for final arrangements, people to contact, etc.
How should I store my documents?
A good measure for determining which documents should be kept secure can be based on whether the information is sensitive (i.e. account numbers) and/or difficult to replace if lost, stolen or damaged (i.e. Social Security card).
Examples for safe storage include a bank/credit union safe deposit box or a fire-proof safe. You will want someone you trust to know this location.
This information is to be used as a starting point and guide to help you consider, locate, and organize the important information in your life. This information is not intended to serve as a recommendation for estate planning or financial advice. We strongly suggest you consult with a professional – such as an attorney, an accountant, an estate planner, or a financial advisor – to ensure that your assets and documents have been structured properly.
By Jennifer Hanniford