Do yourself and your loved ones a big favor: organize the avalanche of paperwork, document and files. Shred what you don’t need. Your family will always remember you for this!
Giving your family the gift of a relatively seamless transition following your demise, is one of the many reasons for estate planning, including creating a will, health care proxy, power of attorney and other necessary documents. A Letter of Final wishes is not a legal document. However, it is a kindness to those you love you to know what your wishes are regarding life after you have gone. Another item that your heirs will really appreciate: not having to dig through an enormous pile of paperwork.
Many Americans accumulate a lot of paperwork, thinking that it may be important one day. They keep it in various locations and formats. However, there’s probably just a fraction of the documents that are really important to you and your family. The rest is likely no longer necessary for tax reasons or any other purpose.
Although personal organization is hardly anyone’s top priority (or even a hobby!), keeping important documents and financial records organized and easily accessible is a great idea. It is very helpful to your family both now and after you pass away. For example, being an executor for an estate can mean a front row seat to the stress and complications that can result from disorganization or document overload. Organizing the information is a very considerate gift to your family.
Forbes’ article, “Be Considerate To Your Family And Clean Out Your Files,” offers some guidelines that might be helpful.
It’s best to create a structured plan first. There many resources that you can consult ( such as the IRS) for information about recommended retention periods for various types of documents. In addition, think about these questions:
- Are your records self-explanatory to your loved ones?
- Are all your records in one location and in a consistent format?
- Do you shred old and/or irrelevant paperwork?
- Do you archive your important documents in an organized way (digital archiving may be best)?
- Create and update a comprehensive summary of important information for your family.
- Inform appropriate people how to access your files.
Taking the time now to organize your records, getting rid of what you don’t need and sharing the location of your documents, will be greatly appreciated by your heirs. Document overload and disorganization can add complications to setting an estate, as well as causing stress to those you love.
Reference: Forbes (June 14, 2017) “Be Considerate To Your Family And Clean Out Your Files”