The not-so-fun tax documents are starting to come in and it got me thinking about my files and papers and how I need to get them organized for 2018. Yup, I haven't done it yet! What I did do a few years ago though is some big picture organizing of all of our family's important documents and I created a road-map to explain the how, what and where to manage it.
We all know how important it is to have our critical life documents in place, so that we have them when we need them. However sometimes life gets in the way and this important task gets pushed to the back burner. Working with an organizer can help you check this important task as done. Having a professional guide the process makes it less stressful and painful. However, there are helpful checklists out there for you to do it yourself. The website Get your SH** Together has several.
It is critical to gather all important documents such as wills, insurance, marriage and birth/death certificates (follow the link above for the complete list) and to ensure that important people in your life know where to find them. Gather them all in a secure place and make sure they are updated and protected so that if you need them, you have them.
Road-map Creation - It is essential to set up files and to have a document that reminds you and informs the important people in your life where all the essential documents are kept, how to pay bills, contact information for key people, and how to find passwords so that a stressful situation doesn't become more stressful for a loved one trying to get essential information, if and when you can't. There are 6 elements to create a Road-map for yourself and loved ones.
Insurance - In order to make sure you have the right insurance and that you can get items replaced if you need to, you will need to do a home inventory. There are many home inventory software companies out there that make this process easy, and a good one is HomeZada. Though even a video and spreadsheet of items and model numbers by room would suffice. Check with your insurance company and find out their requirements.
Important Paper / Files - Only create paper and electronic files that are absolutely essential. Create an index of what is filed where to include instructions to find digital paper.
Income / Expense - Create a spreadsheet to describe all assets and all expenses, to include how all bills are paid. If paid on-line - explain if the bill is paid from a checking account or charged to a credit card.
Passwords - Do your loved ones know your essential passwords? Do you use a password manager? Share with your spouse and others as appropriate your master password, computer lock-screen password, bank accounts, credit cards, etc. I can't tell you how many couples I have worked with where they don't know each other's important passwords.
Contacts - Create a list of important people in your life that can help answer questions (accountant, financial advisor, executor, home maintenance providers, etc) and also friends, neighbors and family you want contacted in an emergency situation.
Safe Deposit Box / Fire Proof Safe - Create an index of what is stored here and make sure your loved ones are aware of it and know the code to access the safe, or have a key to a bank safe deposit box. You will want to put the Road-map document here for loved ones to access and you can also send them a copy, as you feel comfortable.
The sense of satisfaction and relief are tremendous when the road-map is complete. I know paper can be overwhelming, but there are a lot of resources out there - both good websites with checklists and professionals that are available to help at any point in the process. Good luck creating your family's road-map and let me know if I can assist.