It’s a good idea to get your affairs in order should the unexpected happen – but what does it mean and how do you go about it?
A quick guide to getting your affairs in order
What does “getting your affairs in order” mean?
“Getting your affairs in order” is what you do to organise your personal information, both legal and financial, in the event that something should happen to you.
It really helps those left behind and can avoid leaving them with difficult decisions at an already difficult time.
It’s natural to not want to think too hard about the time we’re no longer around for our loved ones but, at that very point, they’ll probably need your guidance more than ever.
What can I do to get my affairs in order?
1. Start sorting your paperwork
It can feel overwhelming when you start getting your affairs in order.
The easiest way to start is by creating an “Important documents folder” where you can keep everything important and have somewhere to direct your loved ones so they can be prepared should the unexpected happen.
Start by collecting and filing the following documents:
- Your birth certificate
- Marriage or divorce certificates
- Information on the deeds to any properties you own and where the deeds are kept (usually with a solicitor, so include your solicitor contact details)
- Mortgage information including statements
- Any bank account information that you have, including statements for each account
- Information on any savings accounts or investments that you have
- Pension statements
- Credit card information and statements
- Insurance information for life insurance, home insurance, car insurance and any other insurance policies you may have (make sure you include phone numbers and policy numbers)
- Any information you have on outstanding debts or unpaid bills
- A list of recurring bills and account information for household bills including electricity, gas, water and internet provider
- A list of reglar payments from your account, including magazine subscriptions, clubs, donations or breakdown services
- Tax certificates, including a P60
- Power of attorney information if you have one
- Names and phone numbers of relatives and close friends
- Location of a signed, up-to-date will
If you keep any originals in a safety deposit box, such as your birth ceritficate or the deeds to your house, include information of where to find the safety deposit box and its key or code.
Once you’ve made this folder, it’s a good idea to review it regularly and keep things up to date. And make sure you tell your loved ones or in particular, the executor of your will, where they can find it.
Remember, this information needs to be kept securely. The contents of these documents is important and personal and could be used for identity theft if found by the wrong person.
2. Write your will
Most of us have an idea of what we would like to leave our loved ones, but naturally it’s not something we generally broadcast, that’s where a will can help.
By writing a will you can take the guess work out of what needs to happen to your money, property and possessions after you die (this is known as your ‘estate’).
It means that everyone knows exactly how you want things dealt with and avoids any unnecessary ambiguity.
Another advantage of writing a will is that you could also minimise the impact of inheritance tax on your loved ones, which may rear its head at a time when people least need it.
Your will also tells people who you want to be your executor – they’ll be the person who sorts out your estate after you die.
If you die without having made a will, which is known as dying ‘intestate’, the law will determine what happens to your estate.
In such a situation there’s a chance that someone dear to you but not directly related, such as a partner or step-child might not be automatically provided for.
So for everyone’s peace of mind, it’s worth taking time out to write your will.
If you already have a will then check it to make sure it is up-to-date and think about any changes you want to add or draw up a new will.
Changes to wills have to be made carefully to make sure they are legally recognised.
3. Make funeral arrangements
It’s not the easiest thing to consider, but by detailing how you would prefer your funeral to be organised will make your loved ones’ lives easier at what will be a very stressful time.
It also means that your funeral arrangements will have your personal touch, which your friends and family will really appreciate.
We’ve got a simple and free way to record your funeral wishes.
4. Don’t forget about your digital estate
Take a moment to think and count the number of digital accounts you have, from email to social media like Facebook, bank accounts and entertainment and shopping like Netflix or Amazon.
It quickly adds up doesn’t it?
You need to treat these accounts in much the same way you would the rest of your estate.
So make a list of all your digital profiles and accounts complete with passwords and instructions of what you want doing with each one.
Then, leave them with someone you trust to take care of your requests when you pass away.
It may be that you include these details in your will. However you decide to do this, it’s really important that you make it clear how you want your digital estate handled.
If you’d like to start doing this, download our free digital legacy pack, it’s got everything you need to start recording your digital wishes.
5. Think about clearing any outstanding debts if you can
If you have any debts against your name, such as credit ards or loans, that aren’t secured against your house, you might want to pay them off if you can afford it.
This keeps things much more simple for your executor and means that the money and personal gifts you’d like to leave to your loved ones in your will won’t take as long to reach them.
6. Caring for your pets
This can sometimes be forgotten, but it’s worth considering as it will give you peace of mind that your pets are cared for when you’re no longer around.
Make sure you speak to family members or friends to see if they could take them into their own home, or discuss a local shelter where you’d like your pets to go to find a new, loving home.
Make today the day you start putting your affairs in order
Writing your will and how you want your funeral arranged, along with taking steps to cover the costs of your funeral, will go a long way towards looking after your loved ones when you’re gone.
You’ll reduce the financial pressure on them and remove the stress of having to decide how to organise your send off — it’s probably the best parting gift you could leave them with.
SunLife offers a range of straightforward and affordable products including over 50s life insurance, funeral plans, equity release, pet insurance, home insurance, car insurance, ISAs and Will writing services.