Why January is the best time to organize your estate planning paperwork

Now that the holidays and New Year celebrations are over, there are lots of productive things you can do in January like cleaning out your closets, giving your house a deep cleaning, or decluttering your office or desk. January is also the best time of year to take some time to organize your estate planning documents.

If you want to set up and maintain an accurate estate plan, you need to routinely organize your documents as well as take a complete inventory of all your assets and liabilities. 

Failing to organize your documents can result in costly and/or painful losses. Stocks, bonds, bank accounts, real estate, and insurance policy benefits may end up going unclaimed or turned over to the government of the state in which you lived. Each year, millions of dollars of unclaimed assets and property end up going into state treasuries because the rightful beneficiaries could not be found.

Taking the time and making the effort to routinely organize your documents at the beginning of a new year can go a very long way to ensuring that these types of losses are avoided.

Getting everything in order

January is the optimal month for getting your estate planning paperwork in order because, by the end of the month, every financial institution must send out account holder statements to all of their clients so they can prepare their income tax returns.

By the end of January, you should have all of your statements in one place. This way it’s a simple job to transfer account numbers, balances, and contact information from each financial institution in which you have accounts to a file on your computer or onto a balance sheet.  

This will allow you to complete an asset summary as well as a summary of your liabilities such as student and/or car loans, mortgages, and credit card debit. An updated inventory of your assets and liabilities is important when it comes to time to review, update, and/or make any changes to your estate plan.

But, what if it’s not January?

Many financial advisers and estate planning attorneys recommend that clients review their estate plans once a year. Planning ahead to get your estate planning paperwork organized every January will ensure that everything in your estate plan is accounted for and up to date. 

Been too busy taking down holiday decorations, getting a jump on all of the post-holiday sales, organizing your basement, or writing thank-you notes for all of your gifts? Plan to take some time in February to organize your documents. 

If, upon reviewing your estate planning paperwork, you find that you need to make some changes or would like the assistance of a living trust attorney with the transfer of assets into your current living trust, or would like to create a living trust, the Law Office of David W. Foley, San Diego estate planning attorney, offers comprehensive estate planning services.