Have you ever considered writing down a list of all your assets (with account numbers, passwords, and so on), as well as debts and recurring payments?

Making such a list and putting it in a secure place can be a god­send if something ever happens to you and you become incapaci­tated, because your family will have a much easier time looking after your affairs.

In a recent article in the Wall Street Journal, a middle-class couple described the extraordi­nary difficulties they faced when the wife’s parents developed medical problems and could no longer handle their own financ­es. The couple had no idea what assets the parents owned, what insurance they had, where to find records, what bills needed to be paid, and so on. Handling the parents’ affairs became a nearly full-time investigative job.

As a result of the experience, the couple resolved to maintain such a list for their own children.

The problem has only gotten worse in recent years, because of the proliferation of electronic reporting. In the past, bills and account statements would arrive regularly by mail, but now, many people access everything online. As a result, a family might never have the comfort of knowing they’ve located all of a person’s assets.

If you make such a list, a good plan is to update it at least once a year, maybe when you do your taxes. The list has other advantages – for instance, you can always go to one spot if you forget an account number or a password. Also, reviewing and updating the list regularly can help you see what changes or improvements might be needed in your own estate planning.

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