When thinking about retirement and growing older, many people want to focus on the positive aspects, like spending time with family, not having work-related obligations and exploring interests, like travel or a new hobby. And who can blame them - after working hard for much of their lives, retirees deserve to have a fun, happy post-work lives.
However, it's also important to be organized at this stage in life. According to EstatePlanning.org, many people put off getting their estate information together because they don't want to think about the circumstances in which the information would need to be accessed: death or a medical emergency .
While it's not a fun or happy thing to think about, it is important that your family knows which important documents are located or stored, and who can access them. Nolo explained that, every year, millions of dollars are turned over to state treasuries because the heirs cannot be found . Aside from the financial losses that occur all too frequently, precious pieces of family history are lost when the location of photos, heirlooms, documents and other irreplaceable items can't be found.
The only way to prevent these losses is to get organized early. Gather the information and documents in one secure place, such as a safe in your home, and let a close family member know where they will be stored and how to access them.
In the event of your death, your family will need to know your wishes about who should be notified, what kind of ceremony, if any, should be planned and whether you want people to send your family members flowers, or if you would prefer close friends and family to make donations to a charity in your name. In the hours and days following your death, it's good to provide direction for grief-stricken children or other family members who may not know what their next steps should be.
It's important to have a will created to explain who you wish to inherit your property, who should oversee your estate and, if you have children under the age of 18, who will raise them. According to Everplans, the courts will make these decisions in your place if they are not written out .
Everplans also explained that it's important to keep a copies of your current will and previous versions, and the name of the attorney or law firm that helped your put it together .
EstatePlanning.com stated it is important to have healthcare documents accessible as well. If you aren't able to make healthcare decisions, a doctor will defer to your power of attorney to make them on your behalf. Make sure this person knows they could have this responsibility one day. Also include documents about your health insurance, information about the medications you take and your doctor.
If you have family heirlooms or pieces of your family's past, your children and future generations will appreciate knowing where they are and what they mean to your family. Preserving family history is important to many people. Be sure to keep information about where they can find these items as well.
It's important to make your financial information easily accessible to a responsible family member who will be able to take care of these matters after your death. Any details about your life insurance policy, retirement accounts, pensions or annuities need to be included in your compilation of important documents.
If you have a safe deposit box, checking accounts or savings accounts, you need to tell your trusted family member about them. A good way to thoroughly organize all of this information is to begin a record-keeping system that will store all of your bank statements and other financial documents. Arrange them as specifically as you can, down to the name of the financial institution and the account number. Having these records neatly organized will clear up any confusion after your death.
If you have any stocks, bonds or mutual funds, you'll need to disclose that information too. Any property or real estate investments also need to be shared, including the deeds to the properties.
In organizing all of this information, it's important to include the names and contact information of anyone who has helped you put them together. These people might include lawyers, accountants or insurance agents, Everplans explained. Having this information readily available will put your family in touch with the people who might be able to clear up any confusion regarding your properties.
. Organize Your Information
. Practical Estate Planning: Organize Your Documents
. Checklist: Writing a Will
. Estate Planning Documents You Need To Organize and Share