Organizing our personal affairs is one of those tasks that many of us put off. It can be difficult to muster the energy to pull together all the important paperwork that is integral to our lives.
As professional organizers, we are biased but believe it’s true: The more organized your personal affairs, the better. Being organized is also a gift to your family—it helps them find the information they may need in case of unexpected illness, disability, or death.
Let’s take a look at important information that we should all pull together to organize our personal affairs in case the unanticipated occurs.
- Will: Your will specifies who should receive your estate in the case of your death. This can be one person, multiple people, and/or charitable organizations.
- Advance healthcare directives: Advance directives (aka Living Will) spell out the healthcare treatment you want to receive if you are unable to make healthcare decisions.
- Financial power of attorney (POA): It is wise to identify an individual you trust to make financial decisions on your behalf if you are unable.
- Healthcare power of attorney (POA): This is an individual you assign to make health-related decisions for you if you are unable to.
An attorney can help you complete all of these documents, along with any others that may be relevant or wise to your specific situation. We suggest talking to your physician(s) about the options you have in completing your advance healthcare directives.
What else do you need to do to organize your personal affairs?
Make your family aware of your decisions. These conversations can be difficult, but are important in helping everyone understand your wishes. An estate attorney can help facilitate these difficult conversations, if needed.
Keep your paperwork together in a secure place. If you have an attorney, you may want them to keep a copy of your will, advanced healthcare directives, and POA information. We also recommend keeping your paperwork in a fireproof box or safe in your home. Make sure your family or POA know where this information is located.
In addition to the legal paperwork discussed above, we suggest storing other important documents in the same place.
- Social Security card
- Birth/marriage/divorce/adoption certificates
- A list of all banking, retirement, and other financial accounts, complete with institution, account numbers, and contacts
- Insurance policies
- A list of all bills and payments, complete with institution, account numbers, and contacts
- A list of important people to be contact in case of the unexpected, complete with phone numbers or emails
- Preferences regarding funeral arrangements (including whether you want burial or cremation)
Keep the information current. Review this information at least once a year, or in the event of significant changes to your life or health. What’s one step you can complete today to give your family the gift of having your personal affairs organized?