Use Technology to Organize Your Life’s Assets

by Ann Galick
Commerce Trust Company

There’s a fireproof box in the study that holds family birth certificates. Your retirement account, CDs and mortgage are all with different financial institutions. Your will is with your attorney, and your tax returns are with your accountant. When your financial information is scattered, it’s harder to get a holistic understanding of your finances, as well as monitor accounts for issues. Then in the case of an emergency, your loved ones may not know how to access key documents and information. Fortunately, technology makes it easier to get organized, keep documents safe and see the big picture. You might consider the following options:

Make Electronic Copies of Important Documents
First, you’ll need to gather all of your files. Grab anything you’ve been storing in your safety deposit box, safe or that manila envelope in the back of your file cabinet. You may have more important documents than you realize. In addition to your birth certificate, social security card and passport, you should include any marriage or divorce records, recent tax returns, estate planning documents like your will, durable power of attorney and any paperwork on property you own—like mortgage papers and car titles. Then, use a scanner at home or seek a scanning service to create copies of all documents. Store the originals in a safe place, and upload the backup versions to a secure cloud storage platform.

Set Up a Secure Cloud Storage Platform
If you use Dropbox or Google Drive, you’re familiar with cloud storage services. You can upload electronic files, organize them in folders and store them long-term online. When it comes to your financial information and personal files, it’s crucial that you find a platform with strong privacy rules. When evaluating potential cloud storage services, look for ones that provide encryption to prevent unauthorized access, and review their privacy policy to make sure the company does not scan your documents.

Your cloud storage platform can serve as a central hub for your assets. Once you upload your key documents, you can include instructional documents for your family. Include a list of the documents stored in the platform, as well as any individuals to contact with questions. Create a contact list of important people, like your family members and professional contacts: accountant, attorney, physician, insurance agent and financial advisor. Create a financial inventory that lists all of your accounts and where they’re held. Include all of your assets: checking and savings accounts, CDs, securities, annuities, retirement plans, and personal property like cars and jewelry. Then list any liabilities: mortgages, lines of credit, loans, credit card debt and back taxes you may owe. Finally, give your closest family member or executor access to the cloud platform, so that—should anything happen—they have the information they need.

Link Your Accounts to One Dashboard
Use a mobile app like Mint to consolidate your financial information into one dashboard. You can add your financial accounts to your Mint profile, and your transactions and balances will then appear in your main screen. It syncs with your accounts so that the information is regularly updated automatically. You could link your checking, savings and credit card accounts as well as investment, mortgage, insurance and loan accounts. Once you have your accounts linked, you can monitor them all from one place, rather than regularly logging into each individual account to check for issues.

While it may feel daunting, it is possible to organize your life’s accounts and files into one place. The ultimate benefit is peace of mind, knowing your important documents are backed up, your loved ones are informed should anything happen, and the current status of your financial accounts. You can also see the big picture of your financial situation, from your mortgage to taxes, and better identify opportunities or redundancies. Working with a financial advisor, you can better understand the nuances of your finances and make strategic decisions about your future. iBi

Ann Galick is a vice president and private client advisor for Commerce Trust Company in Peoria. Commerce Trust Company is a division of Commerce Bank.

Add new comment