Be Financially Aware & Prepared
It seems pertinent to discuss how to be financially aware today. Organizing financial information can bring peace to you today and relieve your loved ones' future burdens. It ensures proper management of your finances and affords control over your lifetime needs and legacy.
The goal is to make and maintain an accurate list of accounts and passwords and relevant contact names at financial institutions. Whether you are a parent, near retirement, or both, informational instructions will spare your loved ones a lot of work and heartache.
The assumption is that you already have an estate plan with necessary documents such as a will, living will, durable power of attorney and health care surrogate, etc. If this is not case, please retain an Elder Law Attorney and/or Estate Planning Attorney (preferably one that is Board Certified) to assist you as soon as possible.
You can then focus on the written steps loved ones should take if something happens to you. These steps should include a list of all salient information; names (think bankers, lawyers, insurance agents) and their contact information, digital and hard assets, accounts, bills, debts, credit cards, insurance policies, annuities, pensions, PINs, and passwords. Include a list of all companies and invoice types (monthly, quarterly, annually) that automatically debit money from your checking account.
The numerous books, planners, and online free worksheets can help you identify those things that need inclusion in your financial information; this can be your starting point. Online websites or apps can store your data and instructions for a one time or recurring fee. While the online options are intriguing, a self-directed approach is generally best. Turning over consolidated personal financial data opens you to the possibility of identity theft, hacking, misuse of your records, etc.
Digitize your information in a word editor or spreadsheet and store it on a flash drive. Print hard copies of your instructions and information and leave them with other important documents like your will or the deed to your home.
Keep these records accurate with annual updates or any fundamental shift in how your finances are managed and by whom. Be sure your executor and other relevant family members know the location of this information. The true goal of this task is organization and consolidation. And it is one of the most important financial tasks you will undertake during your life.
Jason A. Penrod is only the 20th attorney to be Board Certified as an Elder Law Expert by the Florida Bar and the National Elder Law Foundation. He is the founder of Family Elder Law (www.familyelderlaw.com) which has offices in Lakeland, Lake Wales, and Sebring, Florida