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Hospice of Santa Barbara Offers Finance Tips

Especially in today's economy, it's important to get assets and documents in order

With the nation’s struggling economy on the minds of most Americans, the Hospice of Santa Barbara is offering tips to help ease financial anxiety.

Death, especially death that comes unexpectedly, can be a painful and traumatic experience for any family or loved one. The experience becomes even more difficult when the deceased’s finances are left in disarray or financial decisions have not been made before the death.

“None of us intentionally want to leave questions about finances in the wake of our demise; yet, without proper planning, this is exactly what happens,” said Steve Jacobsen, executive director of Hospice of Santa Barbara. “We strongly encourage everyone to organize all their personal and financial information and sooner is better. This is not a recommendation reserved only for those close to death, but for everyone.”

The first step is to assemble as much information as possible about you and your income and savings. A trusted family member or friend should know where you keep all these records and documents, including your will.

Everyone’s life history is different, as are their income, savings, debts and investments. Still, some general suggestions may help you begin to organize important papers. Set up a file, assemble everything in a desk or dresser drawer, or just list the information and the location of documents in a notebook. Review these records regularly to make sure they are up to date.

A financial records file should include information about the following information:

» Full legal name, Social Security number, date and place of birth

» Location of “living will” or other advance directive if one exists

» Location of birth certificate and certificates of marriage, divorce and citizenship

» Sources of income and assets (pension funds, IRAs, 401(k)s, interest income, etc.)

» Social Security and Medicare information Investment income (stocks, bonds, property, and any brokers’ names and addresses)

» Insurance information (life, health, and property) with policy numbers and agents’ names

» Bank account numbers (checking, savings and credit union)

» Location of safe deposit boxes and their keys

» Copy of most recent income tax returns and property tax information

» Liabilities (what is owed to whom and when payments are due)

» Mortgages and debts -how and when paid

» Location of deed of trust and car title

» Credit card and charge account names and numbers

» Location of all personal items such as jewelry or family treasures

» Estate plan documents (trust, will, durable power of attorney for financial matters, etc.)

» Name and contact information of key advisers (CPA, estate planning attorney and investment adviser)

For more information and checklists, click here and go to the “Our Services” tab, or call 805.563.8820.

— Daniella Elghanayan is a publicist.

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