Estate Planning

Establishing and maintaining a systematic plan for keeping track of important papers allows our loved ones to easily access them in the event of an emergency or death. I recommend creating a list by taking an inventory of all of your important papers and note their locations on your list. If the papers are scattered in various places, try to consolidate them to a central location.

These papers should include family, property, financial, and legal papers that legitimize and protect you, your family, and your estate. They document identification, ownership, legal and financial status, employment, education, and family history and may include:

  • Birth Certificates
  • Credit Card Information (including auto charge information)
  • Debts Owed and those to be collected
  • Financial Accounts
  • Funeral and Burial Plans and Records
  • Household Property Inventory
  • Income and Expense Records
  • Insurance Policies
  • Investment Records
  • Marriage Certificate
  • Medical Records
  • Membership and Subscription Details
  • Passports
  • Passwords
  • Powers of Attorney
  • Professional Advisers
  • Property Appraisals, Deeds and Titles
  • Safe Deposit Box Inventory
  • Social Security Cards
  • Tax Records
  • Vehicle Information
  • Wills and Trusts 

When you are finished, give this document to one or more trusted persons (such as your attorney, friend, or family member). I would also place a copy in your safety deposit box and in a safe place in your home that is easily found by the appropriate person.

Paying Bills

SORT MAIL AS IT ARRIVES. Don’t pile it up and forget it. As soon as your mail arrives, sort it over a garbage can.  Throw out unnecessary envelopes.

KEEP YOUR PENDING BILLS TOGETHER, IN ONE DESIGNATED AREA.  Separate your pending bills from all of your other mail. 

DO NOT SEPARATE EACH PENDING BILL INTO A SEPARATE FOLDER.  All pending bills should be together so they can be paid without having to search 10 different places to find them.

DESIGNATE 2 REGULAR DAYS PER MONTH TO PAY YOUR BILLS.  Schedule these days in your calendar.

PAY YOUR BILLS IN ONE PLACE AND KEEP ALL OF YOUR BILL PAYING ESSENTIALS TOGETHER. the bills themselves, as well as a checkbook and register, pens, calculator, stamps, envelopes, mailing labels, etc.  This might be a fancy file cabinet, a drawer, or even a shoebox.  

RECORD YOUR PAID BILLS.  Don’t wait until later because if you do, there’s a good chance you will forget. And once you forget, you’ll have to waste time and money later dealing with overdrawn account fees.

STORE PAID INVOICES AND RECEIPTS. Once you pay your bills, mark your copy or section of the invoice with the Date Paid, Check Number and Amount Paid. Then, file each into the appropriate pocket of your Bill Paying System with one pocket for each category; i.e. Utilities, Insurance, Credit Cards, etc.

CONDENSE YOUR CREDIT CARDS. The more credit cards you have, the more difficult it is going to be to keep them organized, and the longer it’s going to take you to pay your bills. Whenever possible, condense your many credit cards into 2 or 3 credit cards, and get rid of the rest.

PREPARE ENVELOPES FOR RECURRING BILLS BEFOREHAND. For recurring bills, such as mortgage, rent or loan payments, you’ll save a lot of time preparing a bunch of envelopes for each beforehand. For example, let’s say you have to pay the rent each month. Make a year’s worth of envelopes out with your landlord’s name and mailing address, your return address and a stamp. This way, everything will be all set to go each month. You just write out a check, place it in the prepared envelope and mail.

USE FREE ON LINE BANKING FROM BANK.   Schedule monthly payments of bills. 

SIMPLIFY EVEN MORE WITH INEXPENSIVE MONEY MANAGEMENT SOFTWARE. If you’re paying your bills manually, you may consider purchasing inexpensive, money management software. My husband and I use Quicken. It’s a breeze to set up and reduces the time it takes us to pay our bills by more than 50%.