The Best Christmas Gift


It’s Christmas and here’s a little secret: your family members don’t really want gift cards from you. What they really want is for you to stop procrastinating about getting your affairs in order.

How do you accomplish that? Seven easy steps.

Step 1. Make sure you have enforceable and up-to-date Texas planning documents: a will, a durable financial power of attorney, a medical power of attorney, a directive to physicians (living will), and a designation of burial agent. If you haven’t looked at them for 5 years, review them and get them updated.

Step 2. Clean out your closets and attic. Give away, donate, recycle or discard stuff that you no longer use – the main thing is to get it out of your possession. If you have a storage unit, ask yourself “Why am I keeping the contents?” If you don’t have a sensible answer, get rid of it.

Step 3. Buy an inexpensive shredder or call a shredding company for a home visit. Shred financial documents, bills, and checking account statements that are more than 7 years old. Shred super-ceded planning documents. Shred old credit cards. Shred embarrassing pictures, love letters, and anything else you would never want posted on Facebook. Organize everything that remains.  

Step 4. Create a notebook that has all of your important information. Page 1 should have the name and contact information for your attorney, financial planner, CPA, insurance agent, banker, any agents you have designated in your planning documents, and your primary care physician. Page 2 will have your logins and passwords. Page 3 will have information on your insurance policies, including company name and address, policy number, type of policy, beneficiaries, face amount, monthly payment, how it is paid, and where the policy is located. Page 4 will have a description of your bank and investment accounts, including name and address of institution, account number, type of account, owner of account, and beneficiaries. Page 5 will have a description of your real estate (or a copy of the deeds) and other major assets.  

Step 5. If you have a trust – review it and make sure you understand it! If you don’t understand it or think it needs to be changed, then do that immediately (there are a lot of unnecessary trusts out there that were established for now-outdated estate tax reasons). Put the trust in the notebook with a list of the assets that have been transferred to the trust. Make sure the trust assets are actually in the name of the trust.  

Step 6. Start thinking seriously about where you are going to live when your mobility is restricted or you start forgetting lots of things. Think about how you are going to pay for it. Set in place some internal markers to actually make the move – perhaps when you can no longer climb steps, or you forget about taking your medications 4 days in a row, or your doctor tells you to stop driving. Then have the guts to follow the markers.  

Step 7. Write two documents: your bucket list and your obituary. One sets out what you still want to accomplish before you die, and the other sets out how you want to be remembered after you die. These are your goals for the remainder of your life.  

The best gifts are those that mean something to the donor and the recipient. If you follow these 7 steps, you will have given the best possible gift of all.  

Hammerle Finley Law Firm. Give us a call. We can help.

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The information contained in this article is general information only and does not constitute legal advice.