September 15, 2020 3 minute to read ∙ 600 words

Advice for Estate Planning Clients on Organizing Personal Information

By Michael Goldblatt

Organizing personal information is frequently overlooked in life and estate planning. Organizers gather information and documents together for easy access in case of disability or death. Organizers also help advisors and families avoid a paper chase in case of a disaster, emergency, or health crisis. This article has tips you can pass along to your estate planning clients to help them organize their personal information and resources to prepare for the unexpected.

Data

Organizers usually include lists of important information such as accounts maintained with banks and brokerages; addresses and phone numbers for advisors, doctors, and family; assets and liabilities; contracts for leases and services; memberships in professional and other organizations; passwords to e-mail, photo, and social media accounts; and subscriptions to magazines and newspapers.

Documents

Organizers can assemble copies of important documents such as birth certificates, deeds, insurance policies, marriage licenses, military discharge papers, and social security cards. They can include copies of estate planning documents such as health care directives, letters of instructions, powers of attorney, trusts, and wills.

Formats

Alternatives for organizers include entering information into digital documents, uploading to online archives, and handwriting into logbooks. When selecting a format, consider ease of accessing, updating, and securing.

Updates

Remember to update your organizer at least annually. Consider updates when a change in family, finances, or health requires a change in estate planning documents.

Show and Tell

Remember to tell trusted family members where your organizer is stored and periodically review it with them. Sudden illness and accidents can occur at any age, so it is important that loved ones know the location of your organizer. Start the conversation by explaining your expectations if something untoward happens to you.

Storage

Depending on personal preferences, organizers can be printed or digitized. They can be stored separately or with other estate planning documents. Keep your organizer safe and secure to prevent identity theft.

Resources

Several free and inexpensive resources are available to help you organize your personal information and documents. For example, templates for gathering financial information are available for free from law firms and financial organizations. (See below.)

Conclusion

Organizing important information can make life easier by allowing you to manage important information and documents. Getting organized also enables you to plan with your spouse and heirs so they can honor your wishes if you become disabled or die. Use the resources below to avoid family squabbles and share plans with your family.

Where to Learn More

Articles

Books

Forms and Templates

Logbooks

Websites (Cloud Storage)

 

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Michael Goldblatt has authored numerous books and articles about lawyer marketing and preventive lawyering.

Published in GPSolo eReport, Volume 10, Number 2, September 2020. © 2020 by the American Bar Association. Reproduced with permission. All rights reserved. This information or any portion thereof may not be copied or disseminated in any form or by any means or stored in an electronic database or retrieval system without the express written consent of the American Bar Association. The views expressed in this article are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the positions or policies of the American Bar Association or the Solo, Small Firm and General Practice Division.