If you were to pass away or become incapacitated, your loved ones may be responsible for making challenging decisions about your health or estate. During a time of emotional distress or grieving, it’s difficult to think about money and how to find critical documents to move forward with plans. That’s why it’s important to get your documents into one centralized place. By doing so, you’re not only ensuring your wishes are understood, but also planning to help loved ones make financial arrangements in your absence.
Start Getting Organized Today
First, find a secure location, such as a password-protected online vault, fireproof home safe, or bank safe deposit box. Having documents in both a physical and digital location is ideal. Next, decide which documents should go into the secure locations. If you want to minimize clutter, you may consider printing out a list of websites to online statements with their corresponding passwords. Make sure to include any documents containing crucial financial information.
- Quarterly and annual statements: IRAs, 401(k)s, funds, brokerage accounts, statements from last quarter, and statements from the end of the previous calendar year (that is, the last Q4 statement you received).
- Healthcare benefit information: Medicare or Medicare Advantage Plan, group health plan, individual health policies, long-term care policies and contact information for insurers, HMOs, your doctor(s), and your insurance agent.
- Life insurance information: Listing of when level premiums on straight term policies end, the death benefit, the required premiums on any policy, and the present cash value on any whole life policies.
- Beneficiary designation forms: Beneficiary designations often take priority over requests made in a will when it comes to 401(k)s, 403(b)s, and IRAs. Retain copies and review them with a retirement planner or attorney so they can help you gauge the tax efficiency of the eventual transfer of assets.
- Social Security basics: If you haven’t claimed Social Security benefits yet, include your Social Security card and W-2 form from last year (or Schedule SE and Schedule C plus 1040 form). Also include certified copies of your birth certificate, marriage license, divorce papers, military discharge paperwork, and proof of citizenship, if applicable.
- Social Security statements: Take a screenshot or print a copy of the statement that tracks your accrued benefits.
- Pension matters: Collect special letters or bulletins from your employer, your individual benefit statement, your summary plan description, and contact information for someone at the employee benefits department where you work.
- Real estate documents: These include deeds, mortgage documents, property tax statements, homeowner insurance policies, and a list of the contents in your home and their estimated value.
- Estate planning paperwork: Your estate plan, any trust paperwork, a will, and a durable power of attorney or healthcare directive.
- Tax returns: At a minimum, have a copy of your 1040 and state returns from the prior year.
- List of digital assets: Contents of a cloud, a photo library, social media pages, and all corresponding passwords.
Once you’re organized, be sure to tell your loved ones where to find your documents and provide them with password information or permission to access to your safe deposit box or digital vault.
Planning for the unexpected is a lasting way to show your loved ones you care. Please talk to us for further direction on estate planning or other financial matters.