Organizing important paperwork is the first step towards getting your affairs in order. I pride myself on being organized, and I want to pass on some of the wisdom I have acquired during my many years of practicing law. It may seem like a daunting task to get your affairs in order and papers organized, but if you follow these simple steps you will find the process can be easy and pain-free. Here are ten steps you may consider for organizing your important papers and make sure everything goes smoothly if something happens to you:
1—Find all of your original estate planning documents (Wills, Powers of Attorney, Living Wills, Trusts, Life Insurance Policies) and make a listing of those documents. On the list make a note of where you keep your originals and where you keep your copies.
2—Make a list of your assets (real estate, investments, bank accounts, investment accounts, long-term care insurance, retirement plans, life insurance, and any high-value personal property, jewelry, artwork, family heirlooms, and automobiles).
3—Put together a list of the full legal names, addresses, and phone numbers for your emergency contacts and people that are named in your documents as Executors, Trustees, Guardians, Agents, and Beneficiaries.
4—Gather copies of your Beneficiary Designation Forms for all of your life insurance policies and retirement accounts. Make sure that those Beneficiary Designation Forms are on file with the life insurance companies and/or the retirement plan administrator.
5—Gather the appraisals for your valuable art and jewelry and assess whether those need to be added to your homeowner’s insurance policy.
6—Give your healthcare providers copies of your Healthcare Power of Attorney, Living Will, and other health-related documents and ask that they are placed into your electronic medical records. Keep copies accessible in the event of an emergency situation.
7—Put together a password listing and keep it secured (under lock, password protected on your computer, or use a secure password protection program). Make sure loved ones know how to access this list if something happens to you.
8—Make sure that the people that are named in your documents as Executors, Trustees, Guardians, and Agents are comfortable filling those roles if something happens to you. Consider if you are comfortable giving copies of your documents to those individuals, and if so, provide copies to those people.
9—Make sure that your Agents, Executors and/or Trustees have access to your original documents in the event of your death or disability.
10—Pat yourself on the back for accomplishing steps 1-9 above and knowing that you will have made your life easier, as well as making a difficult situation easier for those who will be assisting in the event of your disability or death.