“Where Do I Begin?”

We have outlined a basic method to organize financial information, along with a list of documents that should be readily available. You may already have a system that works for you. If not, ours is straightforward.

The simplest organizational approach may be to create separate file folders with the following categories:

  • All bills
  • All receipts from the bills paid monthly
  • Income information (wage stubs, transmittal letters for Social Security or disability payments)
  • Health insurance policies
  • Health insurance claims filed
  • Health insurance claims paid (each claim that is paid should be stapled to the paperwork for that claim from the “claims filed” folder)
  • Health insurance claim appeals
  • Disability insurance policies
  • Life insurance policies
  • Home insurance policies
  • Papers related to home ownership and other significant assets (stocks and bonds, jewelry, boats, vacation homes, cars, artwork, etc.)
  • Tax returns for the last three years
  • Information on your checking, savings, individual retirement account or other bank or investment accounts
  • Your will, advanced medical directives and related papers
  • Power of attorney

Next, create a master list of important people and their contact information. Include family members and close friends who should be kept in the loop, as well as your clergy, doctors, attorney, accountant, financial advisor, insurance brokers and employer. Also state where to find all of the above files; be sure to send a copy to your lawyer or a trusted family member or friend.


A professional financial advisor can provide invaluable help with developing a plan to manage your income and expense to ensure your financial needs are met. A financial advisor may be a:

  • Lawyer, accountant, investment advisor or certified financial planner
  • Family member or trusted friend with sufficient experience and good business judgment

Consider hiring a lawyer for certain matters, particularly the power of attorney, and perhaps an accountant to advise you on financial affairs. You should also consider sharing key information with a friend or family member who is reliable and available to help.

A referral from trusted friends and associates is an acceptable strategy for identifying a good lawyer. After you explain your situation clearly to a professional advisor, ask these three questions:


  1. What specifically can you do to help me?
  2. What will your services cost? (Fixed fee versus an hourly fee – Charge for phone calls/contact)
  3. How accessible will you be?
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