Are You Prepared? The Importance of Organizing Documents for Your Designees

A New Year means it’s time to act on your resolutions. Getting organized is one of the top 10 New Year’s resolutions, according to a recent Reader’s Digest survey.

Organizing your home and office are lofty goals and can lessen the chaos of your everyday life. However, consider how important it is to have your personal and financial documents organized and to share this information along with their location with appropriate individuals.

Life’s emergency situations require advanced preparation and planning. Your spouse and adult children—and any others who would need to handle your financial affairs—should know the location of all papers, contracts, documents, policies and other needed information in case something happens. They should know to whom to turn for advice in case of any of these emergencies:

Natural Disasters. It seems like every day on the news there are more reports of massive natural disasters—devastating fires in California, hurricanes on the East coast, floods where it has never flooded before. 

Theft. Theft of personal belongings can happen quickly at your home, office or in a public parking lot.

Sudden Illness. Sudden illness or injury could leave you incapacitated with your loved ones not knowing how to gain access to your important documents, such as your durable power of attorney.

Contingency Plans. While traveling out of town or overseas in our current environment, a situation may occur where you need your trusted individual to have access to your personal or financial information.

With online banking and bill paying, it is easier than ever to move money around, but harder for your designees to find out what’s where. Prepare a list of all your accounts (bank, credit card, investment and retirement) as well as household bills and insurance (health, home and auto). Share the information with your designees. These documents can be stored online as long as you share your log-in and password, but also keep a paper copy in a secure location.

Your team consisting of your tax preparer, financial advisor, estate planner and attorney may know what is going on with your money and your estate plan and can help to sort out the details of your intentions for your designees. Make a list of their names, contact information, and what they do for you. Better yet, invite your heirs to your next meeting so they will be more comfortable working with a team they know.

Kick off the New Year by making sure your personal and financial documents are organized and secure. Then, share their location with the designee(s) you’ll depend on. It will give you and your loved ones peace of mind and make things easier during a stressful situation.

View / Print a copy of this article in Volume 14 of the Law Office of Sativa Boatman-Sloan, LLC & 417 Elder Law Newsletter.