Plan Your Digital Estate

man and woman at computerAlthough it’s not a pleasant subject, wouldn’t it be great to know that if something tragic happened to you, your loved ones would know how to handle your affairs? I’ve written previously about creating an estate plan, but I’ve invited my colleague Judith Kolberg to share her wisdom on an often overlooked aspect of estate planning – your digital estate:

Although it’s not my role to give you specific advice about your estate, I would like to tell you a story as a way of introducing you to digital estate planning:
My client Maxine died suddenly. I was helping organize her digital and tangible documents. Maxine’s executor notified the banks and other financial institutions of her death. But figuring out the passwords, user codes and security questions needed to access Maxine’s accounts took weeks of hard work to untangle. And just when the family thought the estate was well on its way being settled, digital assets emerged. There was a web-only checking account Maxine had in the cloud with no paper trail, and a PayPal account without any hardcopy statements.

We all have tangible and digital assets and information. I read about a man who owned a “digital sword” he purchased for $17,000 to play high-stakes, international video games – legally it was considered an estate asset. I’d like to suggest that this year you:

  • Create a password-protected document (like an Excel spreadsheet) of your login information so your executor and family can settle your account with less fuss and muss. In addition to your online accounts, consider “invisible” (web-only) accounts, including checking and savings accounts, investment and insurance accounts, as well as other places money might be stowed, like PayPal accounts.

Click here for a link to my newsletter to read more about planning your digital estate.

Wishing you simplicity, harmony and freedom,

Sue Small for Blog

Time Management Through the Ages

There are many basic time management skills that are helpful throughout one’s life: setting goals, prioritizing tasks, and planning your day, just to name a few. While the benefit of using these skills is ageless, our time management challenges change as we age. The college graduate trying to juggle a full-time job while keeping up with an active social life needs a different approach to time management than retirees who may have fewer external demands on their time.

Here are some time management tips, broken down by the age group for which they may be most relevant (although some may be relevant for any age group):

College graduate to age 30

  • Just because you no longer have to track homework assignments doesn’t mean you don’t need a planning tool. Whether it’s your phone, a web-based calendar or a paper planner, use something to keep track of appointments and remind you of things you need to get done.
  • Establish a recurring time to manage your finances (e.g., Sunday evening). Use this time to balance your checkbook, review your credit card statement, and pay your bills.
  • Be on time – your friends may have been willing to wait, but the work world is less forgiving. Calling or texting to say you’ll be late doesn’t absolve you from your obligation to be on time.

 Age 30 to 40

  • You may be juggling work and caring for young children. As exhausting as that may be, make time for friends and family, including a regular date night with your spouse. It will help keep your marriage and relationships strong.
  • Prioritize and schedule tasks so you get important things done while the kids are napping.
  • Don’t underestimate what help your kids are able to provide around the house – choose age- and skill-appropriate chores for them.

Age 40 to 50

  • Be mindful of how many activities you allow your children to participate in. If they’re overscheduled and you spend all your free time chauffeuring them to activities, nobody will be happy.
  • Schedule time for your family to eat together – there are lots of benefits. If you can’t eat dinner together as often as you’d like, try a family breakfast or lunch on the weekend.
  • If you don’t participate in them already, explore hobbies, recreation or volunteer activities that will be of interest once your kids leave home (yes, that day will come!). It will help reduce your anxiety about transitioning into the empty nest phase.

Here’s a  link to my newsletter where you’ll find time management tips for additional age groups.

I’d love to hear about your favorite time management tips – and if you’re willing to share, what age group you fall into.

Wishing you simplicity, harmony and freedom,

Planning for the Inevitable

Estate PlanIt’s not a pleasant subject, which partly explains why so many people put off creating an estate plan. On top of that, estate planning requires the skill of advanced planning, something many of my clients aren’t particularly good at (at least not until after they work with me!). If you don’t already have a will and other relevant documents that will be helpful if you’re incapacitated, or after your eventual death, I strongly encourage you to get those things taken care of. You’ll make things a lot easier for your loved ones and you’ll make sure you assets are distributed as you’d like.


Besides creating an estate plan, you can make it easy for the people you leave in charge to find the documents they’ll need if you become seriously ill or injured, or pass away. Consider giving them the actual information noted below (copies or originals depending on what’s appropriate), or an index telling them where to find this information. Completing this list may seem overwhelming, so just do a little bit at a time. Planning for the worst will help assure the best outcome in a bad situation.

Medical Information The name and phone numbers of all of your doctors; the prescriptions, medications and supplements you’re taking; history of surgeries; allergies; medical history, etc. This information can be lifesaving if you’re having a medical emergency.

Financial Information Contact information of your financial planner, accountant and other financial advisors; bank account information – contact information for each bank, account numbers, etc.; investment information – names and contact information for each investment, account numbers, etc.; mortgage information; information about other loans; credit card information; pension and other retirement account information; tax records; bill payment information (especially which bills are paid via automatic withdrawal from your bank account); etc.

Property Information Deeds, titles etc. for home(s), boat, car, camper, cemetery plot, etc.; location of any property or valuables you own.

Here’s a link to my newsletter where you’ll find additional ideas to help you spring clean your way to organization.

Wishing you simplicity, harmony and freedom,

Signature Sue

Time Changes How Meaningful Things Are

girl playing with dollhouseI was recently reminded of how, over time, the significance of our possessions can change as I was helping a client clean out her basement. She had lived in her house for 45 year, raised her family there, nursed her husband through a terminal illness there, and celebrated countless birthdays and holidays there. Her basement was filled with many relics of her fulfilling life – toys that had belonged to her kids, photographs of people she wasn’t sure she could identify, kitchenware that had belonged to her mother, travel information from trips taken long ago – many items that were useful and meaningful at one time, but now stood stacked, dusty and intimidating.

As I helped my client go through the boxes and piles, she had a variety of reactions to what was inside: from “Oh, I remember that!” to “Hmm, where did that come from?” She viewed each item she discovered in terms of what role it might play in her life now, rather than the role it had played in the past. After all, if she had lived without it for all this time and had relegated it to the depths of her basement, it couldn’t be that important to her.

I helped her try to figure out who the unidentified people might be in some of the photos, then put them aside for her to pass on to her late husband’s side of the family. I wondered along with her about when her mother might have used some of the serving pieces and household goods we uncovered, then put them in a pile for her kids to go through. I helped her move an old, tattered chalkboard to the curb for garbage day, recalling how her kids had played “teacher” with it. I took a dilapidated, kid’s-sized table and chair set to the curb as well, remembering the kids coloring and playing games at it. I added a broken doll house to the garbage pile as she recalled how surprised she had been that her daughters didn’t play with dolls, but did enjoy the doll house.

As we travelled down memory lane together, my mom and I shared some great memories, celebrated her rich life, and looked forward to the future – a future that includes a cleaned-out basement and the relief of knowing that she hasn’t burdened her kids with having to figure out what the stuff in those dirty old boxes is after she’s gone. Thanks, Mom.

What things are you holding onto that are or will become a burden to you or your family? Take some time now to decide what’s meaningful and let go of the rest.

Wishing you simplicity, harmony and freedom,

Signature Sue

Organizing Tips for Eldercare Providers

elderly womanWhile many seniors enjoy good health and are able to live on their own, some require the assistance of family members or outside caregivers, or have to move to an assisted living facility. No matter what your role is in helping a senior, even if it’s to be a friend to someone caring for a senior, here are some organizing tips to help make the job a bit easier:

Organize medical information for doctor’s appointments. Because seniors are often under the care of several doctors who may not communicate with each other, it can be helpful to bring complete medical information along to each doctor’s appointment. This information might include test results, medication information, notes from visits to other doctors, etc. To make it easy to transport this information, consider storing it in a portable container such as an accordion file or a three-ring binder. Label the sections of the container with category names that will make it easy to quickly find any necessary information. 

Organize medical bills. Since medical bills and insurance explanations of benefits (EOBs) aren’t typically needed at the doctor’s office, keep these items in a separate filing system, such as file folders in a filing cabinet or file box. You can staple the EOBs to the corresponding bill and file them according to the date of service or the name of the service provider. Although I don’t like to create extra paperwork, if the EOB contains service for multiple providers or multiple dates, it’s often easiest to make duplicate copies of the EOB so that the corresponding bill and EOB can easily be filed together. 

 Here’s a link to my newsletter where you’ll find additional ideas to simplify the role of caregiver.

Wishing you simplicity, harmony and freedom,

Signature Sue