Give your family a great gift: Get your own affairs in order

Give your family a great gift: Get your own affairs in order
Written by Publishing Team

Drear savvy big: I like to organize my personal, legal and financial information so my children know what’s going on when I’m not around. Can you provide any tips on the best way to do this? – Emma is disorganized

Dear Emma: Organizing your important papers and arranging your personal and financial affairs is a smart idea and a great gift for your loved ones. Here are some tips to help you get started.

be organized

The first step in getting your affairs in order is to collect all your important personal, financial and legal information so that you can arrange it in a way that will benefit you now and your loved ones later.

Next, you will need to sit down and create various lists of important information and instructions about how you want to deal with certain things when you die or if you become incapacitated. Here is a list of areas you need to focus on.

personal information

>> Contacts: Make a master list of the names and phone numbers of close friends, doctors, and professional advisors such as attorney, accountant, broker, and insurance agent.

>> medical information: Include a list of the medications you take, along with any allergies and illnesses.

>> personal documents: Include items such as a birth certificate, Social Security card, marriage license, discharge papers, etc.

>> Secured places: List all appliances and receptacles where you keep important things under lock and key, such as safe boxes, safes (with any combinations), security alarms, etc.

>> digital assets: Make a list of all your digital assets, including everything from social media accounts to online bank accounts to home utilities you manage online. It must include usernames and passwords. Use the Rutgers Digital Assets Inventory Worksheet ( as a guide.

>> Pets: If you have a pet, provide instructions for caring for the animal.

>> end of life: Outline your wishes for organ and tissue donation and write funeral instructions. If you have made prior arrangements with a funeral home, include a copy of the agreement, contact information, and whether you have prepaid.

legal documents

>> Will, Trust and Estate Plan: Include the original copy of your will and other estate planning documents you’ve created.

>> Financial Power of Attorney: This document identifies the name of a person you trust to handle financial matters if you are incapacitated.

>> Advanced Healthcare Directives: This includes a living will and a medical power of attorney stating your wishes regarding your medical treatment at the end of life when you cannot make decisions on your own.

financial records

>> financial accountsMake a list of all your bank accounts, brokerage accounts, mutual fund accounts, and any other financial assets you have.

>> Debts and Liabilities: Make a list of any loans, leases, or debts you have — outstanding mortgages, auto loans, student loans, medical bills, and credit card debt. Also make a list of all credit and debit cards, including card numbers and contact information.

>> Company benefits: List any retirement, pension, or health benefits plans from your current or previous employer, including the benefits administrator’s contact information.

>> insurance: List the insurance policies you have (lifetime, long-term care, home, auto, Medicare, Medigap, prescription drugs, etc.), including policy, agent, and phone numbers.

>> Property: List the real estate, vehicles, and other property you own, rent or lease, and include documents such as title and title deeds and loan or lease agreements.

>> Taxes: Include the location of your tax records and contact information for the tax preparer.

Keep all your information and files organized together in one convenient place, ideally in a fireproof filing cabinet or in a safe place in your home. Also, be sure to review and update it every year, and don’t forget to tell your kids where they can find it.

If you need help, get a copy of “Get It Together: Organize Your Records So Your Family Don’t Have to” at for $17.50 for the downloadable copies, or $20 for the print version.

Jim Miller is a contributor to NBC-TV’s “Today” and author of “The Savvy Senior.” Send your questions to Savvy Senior, PO Box 5443, Norman, OK 73070; Or visit

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