There are few good things about tax season. Sure, occasionally you might find yourself on the good side of a refund. Or you might get the chance to clear out your jam-packed receipt drawer. But other than that, tax season is pretty much a drag. On top of everything else going on in your life, you have to find time to gather the paperwork from every corner of your house (and office, car, bags, laundry basket…), get it all organized, and then do a bunch of math correctly or you go to jail. I guess you can see how I feel about the whole process when tax season comes around.
But, guess what? There may be more of a silver lining to tax season than you expect. Why? Because there is something else that's been hanging out on your To Do List that requires pretty much the same process. Yep, you guessed it! Estate planning!
Last week, I posted a little checklist on everything that you need to gather before you meet with an estate planning attorney. Lucky for you, you are in the process of gathering many of those very same documents so that you can file your taxes. Why not feed two birds with one hand (I know, I'm an animal lover)?
Woah, You're Halfway There!
As you prepare to file your 2019 taxes, keep in mind that you are gathering documents for more than one purpose. Remember the recommendation I made last week on the checklist? Start with a binder. Make tabs for each area of your life, including your car, your home, your bank assets, investments, retirement, and your business. Gather all of those pesky papers and put them in the correct sections. See? Doesn't that feel better already?
Next, fire up your trusty printer and start going through your online accounts. If you haven't done so already, keep track of your usernames and passwords as you go. You can keep this list in hard copy somewhere secure in your home or online using a secure password app. As you go through your online accounts, print out everything that you need to file this year's taxes and print any beneficiary designations, ownership information, or lien information that is relevant. Basically, stock up those binder sections with everything you can find.
While you're at the printer, print out the Estate Planning Checklist to put on the front of your binder. Mark things off as you go! Remember, this doesn't have to be done all at once, so there's no need to consume a whole weekend with printing and paperwork. Instead, move through your tax filing and estate planning checklists slowly, an hour at a time. It's still January, so you have some time! Do not leave all the printing and organizing to the last minute! That's how you will end up scraping your taxes together at the last minute, and then shoving all the papers into some box or drawer on April 15th. If you procrastinate, you will add to your stress and there's no way you will be able to take advantage of the massive time savings that estate-planning-while-tax-filing can offer.
Work Smarter, Not Harder
There is no point in doubling your effort! If you are already going to be spending time collecting your financial life and getting it neatly organized for the accountant or an online tax filing program, you might as well take advantage of this moment of clarity! There will never be an easier time to start estate planning than while things are straightened out for tax season. Here's a way to make things even easier: work in duplicate. As you are building your binder, make two! Create one binder with copies of things like receipts, bank statements, and car payments for your CPA (or, if you file your own taxes, for the day you sit down to it). Then, make a second binder for your estate planning attorney. This is the one that should hold all beneficiary information, usernames, and asset totals. On (or, hopefully, before) April 15th, send your tax return off to the IRS and make an appointment with an experienced estate planning attorney. I promise nothing will feel better than handing off that estate planning binder for someone else to deal with.
We are Here to Make it Easy for You
At The Tyra Law Firm, we make every effort to simplify estate planning for our clients. That's why we suggest you make an appointment with us before you think you're ready. You don't need to come to an estate planning consultation with everything in your life organized and perfect. That's what we are here for! Let us step in to help you get organized and create a comprehensive plan that will grow and adapt with you. Give our office a call at (301) 315-0811 to get started.