This is an article from The Smith Law Firm, P.C. (http://www.elderlawyer.com/index.php) in Augusta, Georgia, that we thought others may find helpful.
“If you’ve cleaned out the financial files of a loved one who has passed away, you’ve probably observed this firsthand; people typically choose to save too much rather than risk throwing out something important.”
Morningstar’s April 18th article, “How to Create a Master Directory“, says that a lot of the work of sifting through documents and files would be unnecessary if everyone would create a very basic “master directory.”
This type of document—be it a PDF, an Excel file, a Word document, or even a handwritten record—can be your inventory of financial accounts and contact info. If you keep it up-to-date, this can be an invaluable tool for your loved ones in the event you are unable to manage your assets for yourself. Here are the steps.
Step 1: Document key individuals. First, list all of the individuals and companies with whom you deal for your finances and estate planning business with their contact information.
Step 2: Document key assets. Most of this task is documenting your financial assets, such as retirement plan accounts, IRAs, brokerage accounts, bank accounts, and real estate holdings. If you see that you have quite a few accounts, this may be a good time to streamline by consolidating accounts to reduce financial clutter. You can also get some breaks on fees, free financial advice, or other perks. Also, if you have collectibles or other valuable financial assets, list those too. Documenting your financial assets can also help with your attorney’s review of your estate planning documents. If you have major assets that are in your estate plan, you need to incorporate them also.
Step 3: Document key liabilities. This is the other side of the ledger—your household’s key liabilities, like your mortgage and credit card debt.
Step 4: Keep the data safe. Now that you’ve created your master directory, protect it with a password. Most programs allow you to password-protect a file. And if you handwrite a physical document, save it in a locked file drawer or safe-deposit box.
Step 5: Let a trusted family member know. The last step in the process is to let a trusted loved one know that you’ve created this document, as well as where it’s located and how to access it. Tell your spouse about the document and the person to whom you’ve given power of attorney for your financial matters and/or your executor.
Reference: Morningstar (April 18, 2016) “How to Create a Master Directory”