Organizing Your Financial Stuff

by Miriam Bridgeman

If you had an emergency that landed you in the hospital for a few days, maybe weeks would your family, specifically your power of attorney, in charge of your financial stuff be able to manage with limited or no help from you? Trying to figure out someone’s financial picture or what needs to be done without guidance from you could be a bit tricky. You always think you have plenty of time, maybe tomorrow I will organize, gather my important papers, and set things up for my family. Financial confusion happens all too often when I help family members organize their loved ones financial information after an unexpected death, illness or injury.

Think about tax season. It comes around every year. We know the drill. I’ve been filing my taxes since I was 15. We know the mail begins to come with important tax information sometime in January but we all have until April 15th for filing sometimes later if you file an extension. Every year without fail one item gets misplaced – it isn’t put with the other tax information and I spend hours in search of it. Finally, exhausting all nooks and crannies I make the call into the company to have them resend a duplicate.

Organizing your stuff now while you are able is an important task that each of us should tackle sooner than later. It’s not easy but imagine if someone else had to do it for you. Here are some ideas and tidbits to make this an easy process.

Make sure you have updated and current power of attorney (both financial and healthcare), trust documents and wills in a safe place. Connect with your trustee or power of attorney(s) and confirm they know and remember they are your power of attorney. Additionally, tell them where the original documents can be found should they need them. Attorneys suggest updating them every time there is a life change – marriage, divorce, child, etc. and/or review every few years at least.

2  Document in an estate planner guide or even a notebook who is your accountant, attorney, financial planner, insurance agent, or other professional representatives you use on a regular basis.  Phone numbers, emails and address is also important as well as what they are responsible in helping you with.

3  Insurance policies – original policy documents for life, property & casualty, annuities, long term care, disability.  Outline insurances, insurance agents and policy beneficiaries if applicable. If you are still paying on the policy consider asking a 3rd party person to receive the bill in case you forget to pay it, you don’t want the policy to lapse especially long term care insurance.

Assets – qualified or non-qualified accounts including bank accounts, investment accounts, retirement accounts, valuables – current statements of each, financial representative/agent you work with, beneficiaries – make sure they are updated.  Retirement accounts can pass outside your will.

Funeral arrangements – burial plots, pre-paid funerals.  Important to note the funeral home, director, location of each. Additionally, consider completing a final wishes guide. This will take the burden off your loved ones trying to decide on what final decisions you would like versus them trying to figure this out.

6  Tax records should be kept for 7 years and any documentation you used to file your return like a W-2, 1099, etc. When in doubt keep it!

7 Finally another good thing to keep with your important papers is your passwords. We are an online generation. We tend to do everything online from communication via email, social media platforms, paying bills and managing our bank accounts. Without this simple word or conglomerate of symbols, numbers and letters it would be a difficult job to manage someone’s financial stuff.

It can be easy to be overwhelmed trying to organize decades of paperwork from the past. Take things one step at a time. Make a list and knock one off each week as necessary. You can also seek help from an organizer or planner working in the senior markets that specializes in organization. The goal is to have it organized and ready for your family or loved one to step in and take charge when needed leaving them in good shape to handle your finances and “stuff” with ease and clarity.

For more information or to book a meeting to discuss your situation please contact Miriam at 484-523-0573 or email at

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