September 30, 2020 Financial Planning

Using Organizers to Make Life Easier for Your Family and Yourself

Make sure your assets end up in the right hands if you die or are incapacitated

By Michael L. Goldblatt

Organizing personal information is frequently overlooked in both estate planning and life. Organizers gather information and documents together for easy access in case of disability or death. Organizers also help advisors and family avoid a paper chase in case of a disaster, emergency, or health crisis. This article has tips for organizing personal information and resources to prepare for the unexpected.


Organizers usually include lists of important information like 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 email, photo, and social media accounts; and subscriptions to magazines and newspapers.


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


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.


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.


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.


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 like Fannie Mae, Merrill Lynch and TIAA. See the lists accompanying this article for additional articles, books, and forms.


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 mentioned in this article to avoid family squabbles and share plans with your family. 

Where to Learn More


Death in The Digital Age (CNET)

Estate Planning for Digital Assets (AICPA)

Filling in the Gaps (Trusts & Estates)

Make a Plan While You Still Can (AARP Bulletin)


Blueprint to Age Your Way (Family Night Press)

Checklist for Survivors (ABA-AARP)

Get It Together (Nolo)

Guide to Wills and Estates (ABA)


Estate Organizer (Perkins Coie)

Family Records Worksheet (T. Rowe Price)

Making Life Easier (Analyze Now)

Organizing Your Financial Life (Merrill Lynch)

Personal and Asset Inventory (TIAA)


Estate Organizer (Thomson Reuters)

Family Records Organizer (Kiiplinger)

Password Logbook (Peter Pauper Press)

Peace of Mind Planner (Peter Pauper Press)

Summa Information and Document Organizer (Blumberg)

Websites (Cloud Storage)

Everplans (Beyondly)

Fidsafe (Fidelity)


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