New Year, Same Old Problem — Why this is the best time to think about your estate plan

It’s a new year, which means we’re finally ticking off things from our to-do list that have been long neglected.

We all know the typical resolutions — getting in shape, paying off debt, eating better, cleaning out that pesky inbox. Then there are the fun picks, like finally decorating the guest room or starting a savings account for your dream Disney vacation.

If you’re like a lot of people, putting together your estate plan probably isn’t high on your list of priorities. It's one of those incredibly important things we all know we need, but can never find the time to follow through on.

If you've been thinking about those first steps towards getting your estate in order, but you aren't ready to do a full fledged legal plan just yet, here are a few tips that can help you in the meantime.

What's mine is yours — If you know how to access it

Married couples share a lot of things: chores, bank accounts, the pesky cold that was going around the office. Unfortunately, they don't always share passwords. This is especially true if an account or service is listed under one spouse and not the other.

Putting together a document with log-in details for bank accounts, credit cards, and other essentials now means you'll always know how to access this crucial information when you need it.

  • Bonus Tip — Having a "living document" in something like a Google doc allows you to easily update these credentials if and when they change. Click here to download our template — you'll need to save it as an Excel File or to your Google account to make changes.

Doctor Who?

Medical information is inherently private. But when it comes to the health of your family, knowing important details like the name of primary care physicians, insurance numbers, and specific wishes (such as hospital preferences and religious beliefs) can keep a medical emergency from turning into a fiasco.

Another important step is sharing as much about your detailed medical history as you can. Things like allergies and current medications are need-to-know when you only have a split second to make a decision.

It's not exactly exciting, but by sitting down and talking about your health history beforehand, you have one less thing to worry about if if an emergency situation were to occur.

Every adult should spend the time to create a health care power of attorney and advance directive ("living will"). These documents are the best way to deal with an unexpected medical crisis and guarantees your wishes are fulfilled. That being said, creating a list of the particulars now means you'll at least have the basics covered.

Everyday I'm Shuffling

There's a good chance you have a pile of important documents that is constantly in the process of being filed. Maybe there's a shoebox involved, or a folder that has somehow turned into a miscellaneous catch-all over the years (I may or may not be speaking from personal experience here).

Organizing your important documents is an easy thing you can do to make sure nothing falls through the cracks if something serious happens in the future. Keeping these papers together is also critical for emergency situations like house fires or floods.

Secure fire safes are an inexpensive and reliable way to store your papers. While these "safes" aren't theft proof, they are the best way to protect your documents and ensure everything is together and easily accessible.

Documents to include are:

  • Property deeds

  • Vehicle titles

  • Insurance policies

  • Official certificates (birth, marriage, etc.)

  • Identification (passport, copy of drivers license)

  • Stock certificates

  • Legal documents (wills, trusts, etc)

Little Steps Add Up

Having this basic information together means you're on the way to being prepared for unexpected events that might pop up in the future. And you're also one step closer to creating your official estate plan.

Knowing these details now will help you have a clearer picture when you you start to put together your plans for the future.