As the year draws to an end now is a good time to evaluate your legal affairs and organize documents and plans in the case of a life changing event. It is never to early to have your affairs in order as life is unpredictable.

No one ever plans to be sick or disabled. Yet, it’s this kind of planning that can make all the difference in an emergency.

A good idea is to put all your important paperwork in one place and tell a family member or trusted friend where to find them. Furthermore give them the name of your attorney, as well as a list of people they should contact at the bank, doctor’s office, insurance company and investment firm. Make sure that person has copies of the medicare or health insurance card. Adding a trusted person or family member to a bank account and safe deposit box is also a good plan.

What are important papers? The answer to this question will vary from family to family. Remember this list is just a starting place, you may have other information to add or remove.

Personal Records

Full legal name
Social Security number
Legal residence
Date and place of birth
Names and addresses of spouse and children
Location of birth and death certificates and certificates of marriage, divorce, citizenship, and adoption
Employers and dates of employment
Education and military records
Names and phone numbers of religious contacts
Memberships in groups and awards received
Names and phone numbers of close friends, relatives, doctors, lawyers, and financial advisors
Medications taken regularly (be sure to update this regularly)
Location of living will and other legal documents

Financial Records

Sources of income and assets (pension from your employer, IRAs, 401(k)s, interest, etc.)
Social Security and Medicare/Medicaid information
Insurance information (life, health, long-term care, home, car) with policy numbers and agents’ names and phone numbers
Names of your banks and account numbers (checking, savings, credit union)
Investment income (stocks, bonds, property) and stockbrokers’ names and phone numbers
Copy of most recent income tax return
Location of most up-to-date will with an original signature
Liabilities, including property tax— what is owed, to whom, and when payments are due
Mortgages and debts—how and when they are paid
Location of original deed of trust for home
Car title and registration
Credit and debit card names and numbers
Location of safe deposit box and key

Some beneficial steps that you can take to having affairs in order

Put your important papers and copies of legal documents in one place. You can set up a file, put everything in a desk or dresser drawer, or list the information and location of papers in a notebook. If your papers are in a bank safe deposit box, keep copies in a file at home. Check each year to see if there’s anything new to add.

Tell a trusted family member or friend where you put all your important papers. You don’t need to tell this friend or family member about your personal affairs, but someone should know where you keep your papers in case of an emergency. If you don’t have a relative or friend you trust, ask a lawyer to help.

Discuss your end-of-life preferences with your doctor. He or she can explain what health decisions you may have to make in the future and what treatment options are available. Talking with your doctor can help ensure your wishes are honored. Discussing advance care planning decisions with your doctor is free through Medicare during your annual wellness visit. Private health insurance may also cover these discussions.

Give permission in advance for your doctor or lawyer to talk with your caregiver as needed. There may be questions about your care, a bill, or a health insurance claim. Without your consent, your caregiver may not be able to get needed information. You can give your okay in advance to Medicare, a credit card company, your bank, or your doctor. You may need to sign and return a form.

As always we are here to assist you. As part of getting things in order it may be a good time to talk with your attorney about powers of attorney, joint accounts, trust or advance directives. We specialize in all forms of advance planning and are happy to talk with you about this process. Please feel free to call or email with any questions.