Organize Estate Planning in Retirement

Physician's Money DigestJune30 2004
Volume 11
Issue 12

Demanding careers and lifestylesfrequently leave physicians withlittle or no spare time to organizetheir estate documents. Even whenthey do manage to find some extra timein their busy schedules, the task of gettingorganized can be overwhelming.Fortunately, retirement is a perfect timeto arrange the affairs of your estate,since you will be fully able to take stockof your possessions and give serious considerationto your plan.

Step-by-Step Planning

Wall Street Journal

A recent reportsuggests that you can best tackle the jobby breaking it into small, manageablesteps. Organize your papers so both youand your family will know what youhave and where it is located, advisesBarry Izsak of Arranging It All (, a full-service professionalorganizing consulting firm inAustin, Tex. Getting your legal, financial,and health care documents in order willhelp reduce the burden for your familyin the future. It will also make it easierfor you to keep track of your estate planand make changes to it.

Gather together all of your importantdocuments and make a list of everythingyour family and executor will need,including wills, trust documents, IRApaperwork, life insurance policies, andproperty deeds. Destroy outdated copiesof wills and powers of attorney. Reviewthe beneficiaries you have named on yourIRA and life insurance policies to determinewhether or not changes need to bemade. Don't forget to include informationon all bank and investment accounts.

Store originals in a fireproof safe, asafe-deposit box, or with your lawyer,and make sure your spouse or anotherfamily member has an extra key. Thencreate a revised list of the documentsand where they are located. Keep yourupdated list and copies of the documentsin one location, such as a binder. Yourexecutor should know where the binderis located; they will find it helpful inlocating the originals.

In addition to getting your criticaldocuments in order, there are other importanttasks to address. Make a list ofthe people (and their phone numbers)that you want notified when you die,such as distant relatives, friends, doctors,advisors, and associates. Be sure toinclude information on where yourmedical records are filed. Employmentinformation should also be recorded.This should include the names, addresses,and phone numbers of your pastemployers. Lastly, make a list detailingwho is to receive your personal effects,such as photographs, jewelry, militarymementos, stamp collections, or othertypes of collectables.

Helpful Assistance

Kiplinger's Your FamilyRecords Organizer

Software programs make it easy tokeep the information current and toprovide updated copies for the appropriateindividuals. includes 18 forms tohelp you record key information and thelocations of important documents, such asemergency instructions and legal, medical,personal property, insurance, andinvestment forms. The CD is $14.95 plusshipping. For the same price, you can purchaseKiplinger's 38-page printed bookletinstead. It contains the same forms foundon the CD, as well as useful tips. You canorder at 877-280-7165 (operator 98)

Estate Planning Basics

Nolo's Personal RecordKeeper 5 includesa 132-page user's manual and thebook . With thisprogram, you can create records andsort information in 27 categories. Youcan also import information from Nolo'sWillMaker 7 and export home-inventoryor net-worth data to personal financesoftware using Quicken InterchangeFormat. The program, which comes withpassword protection, sells for $30 plusshipping. You can order at 800-728-3555or

A professional organizer can help youget your arms around all the details.Consider hiring one if you have a valuablecollection and need help cataloging it. Anorganizer can evaluate your collection,help document it in a format that's easyto follow, and recommend an appraiserto put a dollar value on the collection.The process of getting everything organizedcan take 15 to 20 hours, dependingon the size of the collection and how wellit's currently organized. Decide if youwant to hire an organizer to do all or partof the job, or simply to advise you on howto approach it. The National Associationof Professional Organizers (770-325-3440; can help you find anorganizer in your area.

Whether you do it yourself or hire aprofessional, you'll have peace of mindin your retirement knowing you've goteverything organized, and so will yourfamily.

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