January 15, 2015 Reading Time: 2 minutes

Nobody likes to plan for when bad things happen. But not doing so can put more stress on your nearest and dearest at a time of grief or worry.

Taking a few simple steps now to plan ahead, while you’re of sound mind and body, can ease the burden on your loved ones – and failure to do so usually compounds their pain. This month, the latest edition of If Something Should Happen: How to Organize Your Financial and Legal Affairs was published by the American Institute for Economic Research.

These tips will help individuals pull all their information together into one easy-to-understand workbook. Here are a few of the more important steps to take, sooner rather than later:

  1. Make a will. Some 50 percent of Americans do not. When you don’t have a will, the state decides how to distribute your assets.
  2. Create joint accounts, and transfer-on-death or payable-on-death accounts, with trusted loved ones. These arrangements will allow assets to pass to heirs immediately without going through probate court. But make sure these designations will transfer property according to your wishes. A joint account with a second husband or wife, for example, effectively disinherits children from a first marriage.
  3. Designate a power of attorney and a health care agent. If you are incapacitated these confer clear authority so that others can write checks on your behalf and make critical medical decisions.
  4. Let people know where passwords and safety deposit keys are located. This will facilitate accessing important information.
  5. Organize your records. Include everything from the location of 401(k)s and investment accounts to the name and address of your pet’s veterinarian. This will save others hours in trying to sort through papers at a time of grief.

If Something Should Happen is an easy to use collection of forms that can simplify the task of pulling together your financial and legal affairs, to ease your burden on loved ones.

To purchase copies of the book, contact AIER’s customer service department at 1-888-528-1216 or order online at www.aier.org/bookstore.