This is a topic that is near and dear to my heart! It combines both of my worlds as a previous social worker and a current professional organizer. Nobody wants to think about being in a crisis or emergency situation, but being prepared for this type of situation can definitely help ease stress and anxiety. Having an estate plan, a retirement plan, and a healthcare plan is one thing, but now what? What is the next step? Have you considered how to properly ORGANIZE, STORE, and SHARE these documents? If you haven’t already done so, then this blog post is for you!
Why is having an organized legacy plan so critical? Well, here are some startling statistics:
- Nearly a quarter of people 65 and over said they didn’t know where their elderly parent’s estate documents are stored*
- 44 percent didn’t know what is in those documents*
- A disorganized estate can put tremendous burden on your heirs during an already overwhelming and stressful time
- A disorganized estate can lead to obstacles when heirs need to pay off final bills and funeral costs
You have spent a lifetime building your legacy! Honor that by taking the time to pull together your legacy documents and then share with the people most important in your life. Taking control of your legacy planning means that this does not become someone else’s burden in the future. If you start today, you will feel relieved knowing that you are prepared for whatever tomorrow brings.
Here is a broad list of the categories you want to include in your legacy plan. I personally recommend scanning these documents and sharing them electronically, but at the very least you can cull your paperwork and place them in a folder or accordion file.
- Notification List – name, email, and phone numbers
- Personal Data and Family Information – include birthday, social security information, contact information
- Medical Information – health insurance, diagnoses, medication, medical tests and procedures, contact information for healthcare providers
- Housekeeping Details – utility information, mail delivery
- Insurances and Licenses – life and long term care insurance information, professional and personal licenses
- Memberships and Subscriptions – personal and professional
- Legal Documents – will, trust, and power of attorney
- Military Service Documents – service information and discharge papers
- Financial Assets – banking and financial institution account numbers and passwords
- Real and Personal Property – deed to the home, property tax information/appeals, jewelry or other collections
- Memorial Instructions – burial and/or cremation plans
- Birth Certificate/Death Notice/Obituary
- Social Media/Digital Footprint – accounts and passwords
Wow! Once you pull all of these documents together, you can see what a legacy you have lived! Now, it’s time to consider how you will store, retrieve, maintain, and share this information. Consider keeping these documents stored in both paper and electronic copies in three locations with at least one off site location. Put some thought into how often you will review these documents, how often you will update/add to these documents, and how you will delete or shred previous copies of these documents. Finally, think through which individuals you will share these documents with and if they will need password information or access to a safe or safety deposit box. There are many great products on the market that you can use to store vital records, health information, passwords, and financial information. A quick Google search will yield many options and you should consider the pros and cons of each one before selecting the best option.
Remember, this is YOUR legacy…your LIFE…protect it, honor it, and share it! We don’t know what tomorrow will bring, but we are in control of today!