It is very common in my practice to see new clients walk through the door with grocery bags stuffed with paper. This usually occurs when a parent has passed away or needs to go into a nursing home. Now, the kids are trying to figure out what Dad owns so that we can either preserve assets or properly administer the estate. They pile together all the scraps of paper they can find that looks like a financial statement or a bill and throw it into a bag or box.
Alternatively, sometimes the kids walk into the office with tabbed three-ring binders with up to date statements and itemized asset lists.
If you were that child, which would be better?
Consider this: at some point in time, you may need long term care. Also, at some point in time (hopefully many, many years from now), you are going to pass away. When these events occur, someone else is going to have to take over the responsibility of managing your assets. That person may be your spouse, a child, other relative, or even a friend.
Don’t make this difficult job even more stressful. Get organized. My advice is to create a written or electronic spreadsheet of all your various accounts. I also recommend consolidating assets into one or two institutions so as to avoid days of running around to multiple banks.
My clients often tell me that they would like to make things easy for their kids when “the time comes.” Great. The first step is to get organized so that your kids don’t have to march into a lawyer’s office with a grocery bag full of paper.