Personal Finance 
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6 Documents You Need But Hate Thinking About

CourtroomIn general, there is only one thing worst than dying… it’s thinking about dying. If there is one thing worse than actually dying and thinking about dying, it’s probably planning on dying. I think it’s safe to say that the whole business of dying is all together unpleasant and one of the reasons why people avoid thinking and talking about it.

Unfortunately, it’s also one of the biggest financial mistakes you can make for your family. I’d say it’s the biggest financial mistake you can make but if you’re dead, I suppose the consequences are pretty inconsequential to you anyway. But unless you just don’t care about your family, making a few end of life decisions before it’s the actual end of your life can simplify things for your family.

So today we’ll discuss six documents you need but absolutely hate thinking about.
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 Personal Finance 
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How To Organize Electronic Financial Documents

Document Storage!It’s always tricky remembering how long I should keep financial documents so recently I began cheating by electronically scanning all my documents to my hard drive. I was able to save all the documents I really didn’t need, but was apprehensive about shredding forever, and created electronic backups for the documents I knew I should keep. It was the best of both worlds.

The end result, though, was a collection of poorly organized files. To help me create a system, I began reading online. When the NY Times Bucks blog talked to Alicia Rockmore, co-founder of Buttoned Up, she recommended a year-based file system.

“Have one file for everything that is tax- or finance-related per year,” she said. Then, download electronic records available online to the files and scan in paper copies of other documents as well.


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 Personal Finance 
39
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How Long Should I Keep Financial Documents?

Document Storage!We recently purchased a sheet-fed scanner, the Fujitsu ScanSnap S300, to help organize our financial records and this purchase is easily one of the top ten I’ve made in my adult life. We went from having a few banker’s boxes of documents down to just a few in about a week. Using a sheet-fed scanner, versus a flat-bed scanner like a copier, can save you a ridiculous amount of time and the ScanSnap will save your document into a PDF. It’s a big pricey but definitely worth it if you’re looking to save things electronically.

One of the benefits of storing documents electronically is that it makes the “how long should I keep financial documents?” question a bit obsolete. Data storage is cheap so you can save documents forever, but I think it’s still important to know how long to keep documents because it gives you a better understanding of finances. Knowing why you should keep tax records for seven years gives you a better understanding of the tax process.

So how long should you keep financial documents? It depends.

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 Personal Finance 
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Why Naming Beneficiaries Is Important

Editor’s Note: How many times have you opened an account and skipped over the beneficiaries section? I know I do all the time. In fact, any one who has an ING Direct account has skipped over that section because that section doesn’t exist! In this article, Jeff Rose, a CFP in Illinois, shares a chilling tale of how skipping this section could have disastrous consequences you never envisioned.

Three sons were to be equal beneficiaries from their widowed mom’s estate. She had a modest home, about $100,000 in CD’s at the local bank, and $250,000 in an annuity. The mother named the eldest son executor of the estate. The family had always gotten along and the mother never imagined there would be an issue settling her estate, especially since her wishes were spelled out in the will - each son would get an equal third.

Sounds straight-forward enough, right? Wrong.

One minor item was overlooked and it proved to be the catalyst that drove the three surviving brothers apart.

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 Personal Finance 
5
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50 Financial Skills Every Person Needs To Know

Popular Mechanics created a list of 100 Skills Every man Should Know, which naturally gravitated towards DIY/physical skills like jump starting a car and split firewood. The Frisky listed 30 Skills Every Woman Should Have Before Turning 30, which actually touched on more than physical skills (though #12 is physical :) ), with a handful of financial skills (#17 – #20).

This isn’t a checklist of things you need to necessarily do in your life, it’s just a list of things that you should know how to do (in case the need arises).

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 Retirement, Reviews 
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Suze Orman’s Will & Trust Kit Review

Suze Orman Will & Trust KitIt’s not easy thinking about Wills because doing so forces you to confront your mortality and that one day you will die. However, if you do not take care of this very important piece of business, the State will take care of it for you. In every state there are rules that dictate what will happen to your assets in the event of your death. Unfortunately, they may not match what you’d choose to do with it (chances are they don’t). Creating a Will is one of the most important and significant actions you can do for your finances and shouldn’t be put off. The preparation of Wills is big business too and can cost quite a large sum in lawyer fees, but there’s a way to significantly cut your costs – Suze Orman’s Will & Trust Kit.

My tentative plan is to create a Will with Suze Orman’s system and then get it reviewed by a lawyer. By having at least a draft, you save a ton of money on the hours that would’ve been spent preparing it. What makes this even better is that the kit is free for a limited time (meaning I have no idea how long it’ll last).

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 Retirement 
4
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Do I Need A Will?

I am engaged but not yet married, I have no kids, and I don’t have a lot of assets, do I need a will? That’s the question I asked myself after reading the do-it-yourself wills and trusts article I posted yesterday morning. Right now, the answer is no. However, when I get married and definitely by the time we have children, we will want to have a will in place to outline where my assets will go in the event of my death.

What happens if I don’t have one and I die? Then I die intestate, which means the distribution of my assets will depend on the laws of the great state of Maryland and that distribution will likely take a long long time. The process is called administration and it’s governed by the probate court. So, having a will, especially if it can be prepared with a $40 piece of software, makes life a lot easier in a time that is likely going to be very rough.

It’s a little morbid talking about one’s own mortality but sometimes you have to get over that and get down to business. People die and it’s best that they be considerate when doing so!


 Retirement 
7
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Do-It-Yourself Wills and Trusts

I don’t have a will and I’ve done zero estate planning. That being said, it’s a situation I plan to remedy so this recent NY Times article about do-it-yourself wills and trusts was pretty timely. The one important thing I learned about wills and trusts were that they are considered private documents, which means they are valid in all fifty states even if you don’t hire a lawyer to draft them. From my interpretation, it sounds like it’s not an agreement but more a unilateral statement so it’s not necessary to have a lawyer draft it up (especially with how expensive they are).

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