Estate Planning

Get Your Finances Organized!

It is extremely important to have your finances organized.   In fact, I believe that lack of organization is one of the top reasons that people do not reach the peak of their financial potential.   I am excited about this post, especially because we have a FREE tool to help!

Some of you may hear the word organize and your heart flutters with excitement, while others are probably filled with dread just by the sound of the word.  Wherever you are on the spectrum, you can and NEED to get your finances organized.  For your own sake, and for the sake of those you love.

Person working on finances on computer

Step One Understand why you are doing this in the first place

Let’s face it – we are all extremely busy.   The last thing we need to do is initiate another paperwork process just for the sake of what “might” happen.   I believe, however, that this process is an extremely valuable step toward maximizing one’s financial potential.   If you take the time to complete the steps in this post, you will discover areas where your financial plan is lacking AND also where you are winning (which is very satisfying to see).

Here are some reasons to get organized financially:

  • Control:   It is hard for the finances to run out of control when you are focusing this intently on your financial affairs.
  • Improved financial focus:   We tend to improve that which we focus our attention on.
  • We WILL die some day:   Our family will appreciate a clearly organized set of financial affairs.

Organization and a great financial plan are two of the keys to the reason that Jenn and I have been able to experience financial freedom!

Step Two Prepare a list of all of your financial accounts

If you are a slightly, or very disorganized person (like I used to be!), this is probably going to be the most difficult part of the entire organizational process.   It is important to gather together your financial statements so you can easily prepare a one or two page document that details your entire financial picture.

Link to Financial Accounts Form to help organize your finances

To speed up the process, we are PUMPED to provide a FREE TOOL for you to consolidate all of your information in one place – our Financial Accounts Form.   You can download a copy from our Organizational Tools page on the IWB website.

Below is a sample of how the information can be written into the file.


Example of Financial Accounts Form for organizing finances

Step Three Information to include on your Financial Accounts Form

This form is meant to be the be-all to end-all location for your entire financial picture.   When you are looking for key financial information, you won’t have to go far because it is all contained within this file.   When you pass away, it allows your estate executor to easily understand what they are dealing with.

Here are the key items to include in your Financial Accounts Form.

  • Investment Accounts

 Include your 401(k), 403(b), 457, TSP, Roth IRA, IRA, stock, bond, and mutual fund investments.

  • Bank Accounts

Include checking, savings, money market, CDs, and any other accounts held at a bank or credit union.

  • Real Estate

    If you own real estate, be sure to list the addresses and the financial status of these holdings.

  • Will

According to, 58% of Americans do not have a written will.   Have one, and include it’s location and your assigned executor on this document.

  • Power of Attorney

Healthcare POA, Limited POA, or other legal assignments of responsibility should be included in this document.

  • Insurance Policies

Include life insurance – be sure to include policies provided through your workplace.   Also include insurance on key possessions owned.

  • Jewelry (or other valuables)

If you have valuable possessions, be sure to list them and their locations.

  • Safe Deposit Box

If you have one, indicate it on this document and include its location!

I know.   I know.   This can seem overwhelming, but it is absolutely worth the effort to put this together!

Step Four Make sure you are budgeting

Having your accounts listed out and your financial affairs in order is so important.  What good does that do you though if you aren’t organized with the money that you spend?

Budgeting is another important step to making sure you are financially organized.  If you haven’t started budgeting yet I suggest you check out my post “How Do I Budget?”  It’s chalk full of tips on getting started along with free tools to make it easier for you.

Budgeting is part of being organized with the money that comes in and what goes out of your account each month.  Taking control of this sets you up for financial success.

Step Five Where to Find Free or Cheap Resources

  • Check your local hospital for free healthcare power of attorney forms.

For instance, our county hospital provides links to South Carolina’s free power of attorney form.  Check your local hospital system’s website to see if they have the same available.  They may also offer advanced directives.  An advanced directives form takes the pressure off of your loved ones to make care decisions for you if you aren’t able to communicate your desires yourself.

  • Some county library websites will also offer free legal forms, including those that are state specific.
  • Several free legal documents (including power of attorney and a basic will) are located HERE

If you have substantial assets (including sizable term life insurance policies), I highly recommend that you meet with an attorney to have them review your documents to make sure everything is well organized and accurate.  It may cost you up front, however it will give you peace of mind and save your loved ones in the long run.

Where else have you found great free (or cheap) legal documents?

Get Your Finances Organized!

Those Type A people reading this are probably chomping at the bit to get this done (if they haven’t already started).  However, I know this may not be everyone’s idea of fun.  Don’t delay though!

My hope is that as you’ve seen the benefits of having your finances organized it will keep you motivated to see it through.  Getting organized may seem like a daunting task, but you should feel better equipped for it now.

As you organize your accounts and records not only will it help your loved ones in the long run, but it will become easier for you to understand your current financial position.  This will help you as you make monthly decisions in your budget and set you up for success with your finances.

This may be a time consuming task your first go round, but after you have this set up it will be easy to update and maintain it going forward.

Durable Power of Attorney

Do you have someone appointed to handle your finances in the event that you are unable to do so for yourself?  Most people consider who they want to leave their assets to after they die but what about while you are still alive?  Illnesses, accidents and the effects of aging are around us every day and they can be incapacitating.

You should consider a Durable Power of Attorney for Finances.  This document provides for someone to act on your behalf in money matters in case you are incapacitated.  You can give this person as much or as little power as you would like. In most cases, he or she is granted power to manage your expenses and pay your bills.  Some other powers that you can grant to your agent include:

  • Hire or fire attorneys, nurses, caretakers
  • Make legal claims on your behalf
  • Invest your money
  • Run your business
  • Buy, rent and sell real estate

Regardless of how much power you want this person to have, they should be someone you trust with absolute confidence.  If you become incapacitated, they will have control over your assets and work without a lot of oversight. When choosing a Durable Power of Attorney for Finances, ask yourself a couple of questions.

  • Can I trust this person with a blank check?
  • Am I comfortable talking about my financial affairs with this person?
  • Does this person have personal financial stability?

With all of that being said, it is important to note that you can revoke the Durable Power of Attorney if you ever become dissatisfied.  It is important to review all of your estate documents every three years or so because as time goes on, your preferences may change. Keeping these documents up to date and accurate is very important.  


Need more information on end of life planning?  Check out ForeTalk – a complete and simplified guide to prepare for one of every family’s most difficult times written and taught by Stan Craig HERE.

Check out our interview with Stan Craig where he goes into more detail about end of life planning HERE.  You can listen to the Monday Money Tip Podcast HERE.  While you’re here, make sure to subscribe and leave us a rating to let us know what you think!  

Written Will vs. Living Will

Last week, we talked about a Written Will which basically states what you want to happen to you and your assets after you die.  But what happens while you are still alive with a terminal condition and are unable to speak for yourself?

In this case, you need a Living Will.  You need to have documented who you would like to speak for you in the case that you are unable to speak for yourself.  They need to know what your wishes and desires are in regards to your medical care. Basically, you will be able to write out what you want and what you do not want to happen if you were in critical care.  

You can not only decide what treatments you want or do not want but also the duration of your treatments.  No, this is not fun to think about. But it is incredibly important that you are able to have your wishes carried out in an event such as this one.  

Here are a couple of questions that you should think about:

  • If you cannot eat or drink on your own, do you want nutrients and water through a feeding tube?
  • If you cannot breathe on your own, do you want a respirator to prolong your life?
  • If your condition is terminal, do you want to continue to receive treatments such as radiation, chemotherapy or dialysis?
  • Do you want to be kept free of pain and comfortable during a final illness?

Again, these are not fun things to think about but if you are ever admitted into the hospital with a terminal illness, you will want your loved ones and your medical professionals to know your wishes BEFORE you are unable to speak for yourself.

Lastly, when thinking about your medical directives, you should know what questions to ask your doctor.  Most people, when faced with a critical illness, will ask, “Is there anything you can do?”. However, you should instead ask, “Is this treatment going to be a bridge to healing or will it just prolong death?”.  This is important because there is almost always SOMETHING that a doctor can do for your illness. However, if it will just be painful and not actually make you better, do you really want it?

Statistics show that 40% of procedures done after the age of 65 are not only unnecessary and expensive but can also actually cause harm to the patient!  

Do not let this happen to you or your loved ones.  Make sure you have a Living Will today and hope that you never have to use it!  


Need more information on end of life planning?  Check out ForeTalk – a complete and simplified guide to prepare for one of every family’s most difficult times written and taught by Stan Craig HERE.

Check out our interview with Stan Craig where he goes into more detail about end of life planning HERE.  You can listen to the Monday Money Tip Podcast HERE.  While you’re here, make sure to subscribe and leave us a rating to let us know what you think!  


Importance of a Written Will

What do you want to happen when you die?  Because someday, you will die. Have you taken the time to put together a written will that explains clearly what you want to happen to your estate when you die?  I think a lot times we put this planning off because we do not want to think about death or we do not think that we have enough assets that this planning is important.  If this applies to you, you are not alone! The fact is, over 70% of Americans will die without a written will or plan in place for their loved ones.

A will does not have to be a long, complicated process.  There are a couple of different ways to create a will.

The first is called a Holographic Will.  Here, you can write a will entirely in your own handwriting and simply sign and date.  This is perfectly legal in many states and can be used to communicate your final wishes.  The problem comes in when people do not know how to write them clearly and contradict themselves which causes pain to those left behind.  

The second way to create a will is to hire an attorney to draw up a Simple Will.  This is the best way to assure that all state laws are met.  A Simple Will also allows you to list an inventory of your assets and decide, clearly, where you want each item to go.  This is the way to be certain that the assets you have accumulated throughout your life are passed on to those you care most about.

A written will allows you to do a variety of different things.  

A written will allows you to appoint guardians for your dependents.  

You might not know exactly who you would want as a guardian for your dependents if something were to happen to you, but I can guarantee that you know who you DO NOT want taking care of them.  Take the time to decide who would be the best caregiver for your children and other dependents and put it in writing.

A written will allows you to determine where your assets will go.

An essential part of a will is deciding where you want all of your “stuff” to go.  Cars, jewelry, houses, and family heirlooms will all go to someone. Decide this for yourself and put it in writing so there is no question what your wishes are.  The last thing you want is a family fight to break out over who gets to keep what.

A written will is our legacy gift to our Savior.

Once you die, your children and Uncle Sam will get a portion of your estate.  In the midst of this, it is easy to forget leaving a gift behind to the church.  This is important because it can and will be used to bless many others. What do you have that you have not already been given, anyway?

A written will is your opportunity to leave behind letters of gratitude.  

Arguably one of the most important thing a will allows you to do is leave behind letters to those around you who meant the most.  These letters that you write before you pass can explain how you feel about people and what exactly they meant to you. They will be cherished for long after you are gone and will mean more than any asset you could have passed down.  

Death is not a fun topic to talk about but it is so important as it is something that will happen to every, single one of us.  Why would we not we plan for it if we know it is coming? Get your estate plans in order now and update them as your life changes.  


Need more information on end of life planning?  Check out ForeTalk – a complete and simplified guide to prepare for one of every family’s most difficult times written and taught by Stan Craig HERE.

Check out our interview with Stan Craig where he goes into more detail about end of life planning HERE.  You can listen to the Monday Money Tip Podcast HERE.  While you’re here, make sure to subscribe and leave us a rating to let us know what you think!