By Holly Hargett
It’s the start of a new year and the quintessential time to get organized. It’s a fresh start to make improvements or a time to forgive yourself for not getting something done last year.
Your health and financial records are an important component to getting organized in 2022. It’s easy to put off, thinking you’ll always have time, but you can’t anticipate when an accident or health issue will occur. Someone else may need access when you can’t speak for yourself. And, even if you avoid any health complications this year, you’ll be thankful to have this piece of your life organized for yourself. You’ll have your health and financial records handy when you need them, and it will be one item you can check off your long to-do list for the new year!
Getting Organized This New Year
1. Living Will
Do you have a living will in place? A living will, or advance directive, informs your loved ones and healthcare providers about your wishes in case you have a serious illness or accident.
One of the nation’s most used advance directives is Five Wishes. It is a workbook that turns into a legal document once you complete it. Five Wishes has been called the living will with heart and soul because it addresses your emotional and spiritual wishes, not just medical or financial needs. You’ll be able to select a healthcare agent that can speak for you as well as answer a series of questions that are in an easy-to-read format. Five Wishes is available in 30 languages and is legally valid in 46 states and used in all 50. Either hard copies or digital copies can be purchased starting at just $5 per workbook.
2. Will, Estate Plan and/or Legacy Plan
Have you thought about how you want your material items to be distributed after your death? Aside from your home and vehicles, what about furniture, jewelry and other treasured items? If you’re downsizing and want to lighten your load, consider giving away items now so your loved ones can enjoy them early. It is typical for a spouse to inherit everything once one spouse dies, but you could also have some special items distributed upon your death, so your daughter doesn’t have to wait for Aunt Mary’s treasured ring.
3. Tax & Retirement
You have until April 15 of this year to file your taxes, but wouldn’t it feel great to get everything out of that shoebox and have it ready to file early? Your employer should be sending you a W-2 or 1099 by the end of the month, but in the meantime, start pulling together your charitable donations, your property tax statement and any dependent information you may need. And, if you had any other sources of income, you’ll want to gather those details now too.
If your company has a 401k, are you taking advantage of your employee matching? Once vested, it’s free money so you don’t want to miss out on that opportunity.
4. Financial Accounts
Keeping your bank and credit union statements handy will make life easy. You’ll also want to make any credit card, debit card, retirement, and investment accounts easily accessible. Do you have any alimony child support, student loan or other creditors or debts to note? Having all of this information in one spot will help if you experience credit card fraud, or when you’re ready to file your taxes.
5. Important Documents
Can you locate your birth certificate or social security card in less than five minutes? Other items you’ll want to keep forever (and easily accessible) include adoption, death, marriage and divorce decrees. If you have any military service or discharge records you’ll want access to those forever and you’ll always want to keep your passport handy and up to date.
You won’t necessarily need to keep this next group of forms forever, but you should have them easily accessible: house deed, mortgage information, property records, car deed or rental information, automobile insurance and your life insurance policy, if applicable.
Getting organized is no easy feat. The best suggestion is to break down the list one section at a time. It’ll be a lot of work at first but if you keep it organized during the year, most of the effort will be in the setup and you will thank yourself once the next new year comes around! If you’d like more information about an advance care directive, visit the Five Wishes website, or call 850-681-2020.