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The Best Holiday Gift | From the desk of Matthew Haertzen

Happy New Year! Though you may think, based on the title of the article, that I lost track of time, I am just planning ahead and have a recommendation for an important holiday gift you can give your family next year. I am giving you this recommendation now so that you will have plenty of time to work on it, because this gift - organized personal financial information and records - does take some time. Detailed information about insurance policies, bank accounts, investment accounts, and other similar types of information can help alleviate questions and uncertainty for your loved ones in the event something were to happen to you. It may not be the most glamorous gift, but it is pragmatic and your loved ones will be truly grateful at some point in the future when your time and effort this year saves them a lot of work and heartach. So, read on for some tips and helpful resources to help you start this project.

Planning for your death or disability is never fun or easy, but it is a task that will ultimately make life easier for your loved ones when that day comes. Furthermore, it gives you some control over the end of your life and your legacy. Take some time now to organize your documents and write out your last instructions. Periodically, you will need to update these documents. Thinking of this exercise as an annual holiday gift to your family can help remind you to do it at this time of the year every year.

Where do you begin? Good question. This task can be daunting, but luckily, there are many resources to help you work through it. At the end of the day, however, you will want to choose the option that you are comfortable with and that you will actually use. Following are general suggestions to find fillable pdf files, books and online services. In each category, I make my own recommendation for a specific resource, but I would encourage you to research other options as well.

Free Printouts: If you search online, you can find many free downloadable and printable files that you can fill out and keep either on your computer or in a 3-ring binder. Try searching for "what my family needs to know free pdf". That should get you started.

  • I recommend visiting www.Everplans.com, click on Resources and Guides and search for downloadable checklists. Or try this shortcut to a specific checklist I like from their site.
Books: If you search Amazon, you can find many guidebooks, planners, or workbooks on this topic. They give you organized blank pages to record everything from passwords to personal instructions. Search again for "what my family needs to know."

  • I recommend the "Peace of Mind Planner: Important Information about My Belongings, Business Affairs, and Wishes" (Peter Pauper Press, Inc.).
Online Services: You may choose to pay a one-time or recurring fee to keep your information online. There are estate-planning organizers, end-of-life planners, or document storage sites. One primary benefit of using an online service is that it should be easier to keep updated than a paper version.

Here are my recommendations to use as a starting point for the types of information you will be compiling as you work through the above resources:

  • Important Contacts (financial advisor, lawyer, insurance agent, doctor, accountant, etc.)
    • Official Documents
    • Power of Attorney, Will, Trust, Living Will
    • Birth Certificates, Social Security Cards, Passports
    • Insurance Policies (life, health, home, funeral, car, etc.)
    • Bank Account Statements (checking, savings, CDs)
    • Mortgage or other Loan Information
    • Credit Card Information
    • Investment Statements
    • Personal Property Deeds/Titles
    • Household Services/Utilities Statements
  • Passwords for important accounts or to unlock your phone or computer
  • Social Media Accounts
  • Newspaper/Magazine Subscriptions
  • Obituary Information
  • Funeral/Memorial Preferences
To confirm that I practice what I preach, I have started to organize my own records as spare time allows (so not much progress yet). However, I am focused on having this gift ready for the 2021 year-end holidays!

If you have questions or if you would like to discuss which financial records to include with me, you can e-mail me at mhaertzen@wtwealthmanagement.com or call (520) 204-1058.

Sincerely,

Matt Haertzen
Matt Haertzen, CFA, CFP



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