With spring’s arrival, the focus often turns to fresh new beginnings, airing things out, cleaning up the clutter, and getting organized. For some, cleaning will reach a feverish pitch with full-on attacks to cupboards and drawers, purging of wardrobes, donating unnecessary items to charity, garage sales, and generally getting their lives in order after a long and hard winter.

However, did you know that spring is also a great time for a ‘checkup from the neck up’ to get your personal and financial house in order? All of the other important things I have mentioned elicit a short-term euphoria and bring about a temporary sense of calm, but having your affairs in order in the event of an unforeseen illness or a death will have an amazing, long-lasting effect on you and your loved ones. It goes beyond just getting organized – it is also about having ‘courageous conversations’ with yourself, your loved ones and then engaging the proper professionals to make sure you have all of the necessary plans in place. What’s also critically important is whether the right people, such as your executor or loved ones, know where all of this information is if they need to gain access to it quickly.

This spring, in hopes that its helps you prepare now so you are not paying later, here are my Top 10 Tips to get you started on a financial checkup from the neck up.

  1.  Make sure all of your important information and documents have been compiled and placed in one central location.
  2. Make sure that your loved ones or your executor knows where all of this important information is located.
  3. Make sure you have had a conversation with the person you have chosen as your executor and you have asked them to accept the role. Also, consider appointing a co-executor.
  4. Make sure you have recently reviewed your will, pre-estate documents for financial and health matters, to make sure they are up-to-date. It is best to have a lawyer draw them up for you.
  5. Make sure you have legal guardians appointed for your underage children, that you have named them in your will and that you have asked if they will take on this role.
  6. Make sure that the life insurance, critical illness, disability insurance, etc., you have in place is adequate to meet today’s needs.
  7. Make sure that everything that needs to be discussed with your partner and family has been, even the difficult conversations that include your final wishes. Better yet, talk to a funeral pre-arrangement specialist and make it a family meeting.
  8. Make sure that your partner, adult children, and parents (if applicable) have met your professional advisors. Don’t let the first meeting they have after they receive bad news be with someone they do not already know.
  9. Make sure that you have added your partners name to all household bill/utilities accounts so they are authorized to deal with the respective companies.
  10. Make sure that you have compiled a list of family and close friends in the event that you need to lean on them to help get the word about an illness or death in the family. Making calls and notifying people is the last you thing you need to take on in your time of need.

Spring-cleaning of this nature is often not top of mind for most people, but think about this for a moment: if having a well-organized house makes you feel good and gives you a sense that you have taken charge. How critically important would it be for you to be in control if life as you know it changes this spring? Remember – you can prepare now while you are of sound mind and body, or you can pay later. Which one would be your preference?