If you’re like me, lockdown may have given you a bit of time to tackle some of those boring admin jobs you’ve been putting off for ages. Let’s face it: getting financially organised can be quite a mundane task and sorting out old paperwork is not the most exciting way to spend an afternoon!
However, I was reading the results of a recent survey by the Co-Op which revealed that, across the UK, people have to deal with an average of 12 organisations when a loved one passes away.
The survey revealed that a quarter of bereaved people found administering their loved one’s estate stressful, a sixth (15%) found it upsetting, and almost a tenth (8%) had to take time off work.
No one wants to think about their own demise, but there are plenty of steps you can take to make matters easier for your loved ones. At an already stressful time, a little bit of organisation now can leave them with one less thing to worry about.
So, here are seven ways to help you become financially organised.
1. Organise your paperwork
It doesn’t take a huge amount of work to make your financial life easier, for attorneys, executors, spouses, children, and loved ones to understand.
It could be as simple as: Do the important people in your life know where things are kept? Can your adult children, spouse, and executors find the documents they need when they come to deal with your affairs?
My tips for getting organised are:
- Get all your envelopes and papers out
- Get rid of anything older than two years, apart from…
- Tax reporting documents which you should keep for six years.
Saying that, if you’re not sure whether to hold on to something, keep it. What it doesn’t mean is that you have to hold on to bank statements or pension benefit statements from 15 years ago.
Once you have worked out what you’re going to keep, come up with a simple system for organising all the important documents in one place. You should also make an ICE document, which brings us to…
2. Make an ICE document
An ICE (In Case of Emergency) document is designed to provide all the important information your loved ones need to know when you can no longer manage your affairs, or you pass away. It typically includes:
- Contact details for your accountant, solicitor and financial adviser
- Where your important documents are held
- Where to find insurance policies, your will, etc.
Now is a good time to put all the important information into one document to make it easy for your family to deal with your affairs if something were to happen to you.
3. Make a will
I recently saw some startling figures from a Remember a Charity survey that revealed more than two-thirds (68%) of UK adults haven’t made a will and that 47% of over-55s have failed to arrange one.
Unless you make a will, you can’t be sure that your assets and property will go to your chosen person/s on your death. Even your dependent children could end up being cared for by someone not of your choosing.
Even if you already have a will, it’s vital to regularly review it. Your circumstances may have changed, perhaps because of marriage, divorce or because you have new children or grandchildren.
4. Put a Power of Attorney in place
In recent months, the news has sadly taught us that illness or accidents can happen at any time. So, to get financially organised, it’s vital that you put measures in place to ensure that you have a trusted person to make decisions on your behalf if you’re not able to.
A Lasting Power of Attorney (LPA) is a legal document that can do just this. An LPA can be used for a short period, for example, because of spending time in hospital, or for the long term due to mental incapacity.
There are two main types of LPA:
- Property and Financial Affairs – this deals with managing savings/investments, paying bills, claiming benefits, selling property and structuring your income
- Health and Welfare – this deals with medical treatment, choosing a care home and decisions about your daily routine.
You can appoint one or more attorney – just bear in mind that they must be over the age of 18 and have the mental capacity to make their own decisions.
5. Sort out your pensions
If you’ve worked for several employers during your career, then chances are you’ll have an assortment of pensions. You could well have numerous pensions, all of which could contribute to achieving your financial goals in retirement.
The Association of British Insurers (ABI) estimates that more than 1.6 million pension pots worth £19.4 billion are “lost” – the equivalent of £13,000 per plan.
Now is the time to get out your paperwork and track down all your existing pensions. The government’s free Pension Tracing Service is a good place to start.
When you have located all your pensions, make sure that you have updated the death benefit nominations for each of them, so the trustees of the pension schemes know what your wishes are when you pass away.
Then, make sure details of the relevant pensions, including policy numbers and contact details, are held in your ICE document. This will make it easy for your executors to locate these pensions and ensure they are paid to the right people on your death.
6. Sort out your insurances
Just as your executors and loved ones will find it useful to have details of your pensions, it’s also important for them to know about any insurances you have in place.
This might be life insurance you have arranged yourself, or cover provided through an employer.
Again, sort through your paperwork and keep a list of all relevant insurances in your ICE document.
7. Work with a financial planner
One of the roles of a financial planner is to take a holistic view of your finances and to ensure you can live the life you want with the money you have.
Working with a professional can make it easier for your family if the worst happens. Your planner can be on hand to provide advice and guidance when it’s needed most.
If you want to have a chat about your financial plan, or you’d like to get financially organised and need some professional help, please give me a call on 07769 156 250.
The Financial Conduct Authority does not regulate will writing, taxation and trust advice.
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