Maybe you made a New Year’s Resolution to get your affairs in order, and you’re still procrastinating.  Maybe even the thought of “what if?” sends you directly to the refrigerator.  Maybe you have other priorities.  And maybe you’re just plain overwhelmed.   Regardless, if you want a concise plan, complete with a checklist, help is on the way.  And if you’ve already taken care of most of these things, please read on anyway to make sure you haven’t forgotten anything.  

Step 1: Your Contacts.

Make a master list of names, phone numbers, and email addresses for your closest friends, family members, as well as your attorney, accountant, and insurance agent.

Step 2: Your Personal Documents.

Gather together in one place, your birth certificate, Social Security card, passport, marriage license, divorce decree, military discharge papers, etc.

Step 3: List of Secured Places.

List all the places you keep under lock and key, such as safe deposit boxes, security alarms, and combinations to your floor safe.

Step 4: List of User Names.

List all of your user names for online accounts, such as bank accounts, email accounts, and social media.

Step 5: List of Passwords.

Store these in a place separate from the list of user names (but not in a bank safe deposit box).

Step 6: Pets.

Write down instructions for the care of your pets, including veterinarian’s name and phone number.

Step 7: Financial Records. 

List all your sources of income, such as pensions, Social Security, IRA accounts, etc.  Do the same for your debts, including mortgage, credit cards, car payments, medical bills, etc.

List all bank and brokerage accounts (or have a current statement for each).

List all company benefits, such as retirement plans or pensions from current and past employers.  Be sure to include contact information for benefits administrators.

List all insurance policies, including the policy numbers and the insurance agent’s contact information.

List all credit cards by name and account number.

List all property, including real estate and vehicles.  Include purchase documents, leases, deeds, etc.

Step 8:  Legal Documents.

Your original Will or Trust (or the whereabouts of the original), including the name of the person who prepared the documents.

Power of Attorney.  This document names someone you have chosen to handle your financial matters if you become unable to do so for yourself. 

Living Will.  This document is sometimes called an Advance Directive.  As with the Power of Attorney, a Living Will names someone you have chosen to make medical decisions for you in the event you are unable to do so for yourself. 

Other End of Life Decisions.  It is a good idea to let your wishes be known in writing about organ donation, cremation, burial, funeral, and other matters that may not be spelled out in a Will or Trust.

Step 9:  Try Not to Be Overwhelmed.

This is a daunting list.  My suggestion is to break it down.  Do two steps each week and at the end of one month, you’ll be done.