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Decluttering Piles of Paper? Read This First

Many of us still instinctively cling to the notion of keeping paper copies of everything—even electronic files we print out for posterity.

There is nothing wrong with that. Just be sure to have a filing system that enables you to put your hands on what you need, when you need it. Decide what to save (and for how long), what to shred (and when) and what to share (and with whom). Here are some important examples.

What to Save

These are important documents for the long run and should be kept in a fireproof safe or in a safe-deposit box.

As Long as You Live

  • Birth/death certificates
  • Social Security cards
  • Marriage licenses
  • Divorce decrees
  • Pension plan documents
  • Copies of wills and living trusts
  • Military discharge papers
  • Copies of burial deeds and plots
  • Safe-deposit box inventory

As Long as You Own the Item

  • Product warranties
  • Property deeds
  • Mortgage documents
  • Mortgage payment receipts
  • Life insurance policies
  • Certificates of deposit
  • Receipts for home improvements

What to Shred

These are documents with personal information such as your name, address, phone number, Social Security number or bank account number and should be destroyed after a certain period of time. Many experts agree that these documents should be shredded when no longer needed.

  • Bank statements (shred after one year; hold for five years if you may be applying for Medicaid)
  • ATM statements (shred after reconciling with bank statement)
  • Credit card bills (shred after 45 days, unless needed for taxes, insurance or proof of purchase)
  • Tax returns and supporting documents (shred after seven years)
  • Retirement account portfolio changes (shred after reconciling with monthly or quarterly statement; keep proof of IRA contributions until you withdraw the money)
  • Medical records (shred after five years but keep information related to prescriptions, ongoing treatment, specific medical histories and health insurance)
  • Utility and phone bills (shred after reconciling with most recent statement, unless related to tax-deductible expenses)

What to Share

These are directives that normally involve another person, so you should share copies of the documents with concerned parties.

Financial power of attorney: This allows someone to act on your behalf if you are unable to do so yourself. The holder can transact business, including buying, selling, paying debts and handling real estate. Choose a trustworthy person, keep a copy of the document for yourself and share a copy with the person you name as your agent.

Health care power of attorney or health care proxy: This person makes medical decisions on your behalf if you are unable to do so. Again, choose a person you trust, keep a copy of the document for yourself and that person and share a copy with your doctor. You may also wish to share the details of the arrangement with your family.

Advance directive or living will: These documents direct whether life-sustaining procedures are desired to prolong your life when it is medically determined there is no hope of recovery. Give a copy to your doctor. You may wish to share your wishes with family members.

Bonus: Clean-Up Guide

It is easy to know when to renew your driver’s license or debit card—just look at the expiration date. But what about your estate planning documents? Keeping these current is an essential part of creating the future you envision, but they lack expiration dates. Next time you take some time to clean up your estate plan, the chart below can help.

Document What it is Where to keep it When to update it
Will/Living trust These documents direct your personal representative, executor or trustee on how to distribute your estate. In a fireproof safe. You should also give a copy to your trustee or personal representative. Every two to five years or immediately after experiencing a life event such as:
  • A move to a different state.
  • A change in marital status.
  • The addition of a child.
Financial durable power of attorney This document allows someone of your choice to carry out financial matters for you in the event you are unable. In a fireproof safe. You should also give a copy to the person you appointed. If your relationship with your chosen person changes or if this person passes before you.
Health care power of attorney or health care proxy This document allows someone of your choice to carry out your health care wishes for you in the event you are unable. In a fireproof safe. You should also give a copy to the person you appointed. If your relationship with your chosen proxy changes or if this person passes before you.
Advance directive or living will These documents formalize your wishes on end-of-life medical care. Give copies of the form to your health care provider(s). After a diagnosis of a new or significant health issue or hospitalization.

Did You Know…

You can leave a gift to Be The Match® in your will? It would be our pleasure to help you with the process. If you would like to support our work well into the future, please contact Amy Bigot at (763) 406-8725 | Toll Free: (800) 507-5427 or amy.bigot@nmdp.org to learn about your many options.

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A charitable bequest is one or two sentences in your will or living trust that leave to Be The Match Foundation a specific item, an amount of money, a gift contingent upon certain events or a percentage of your estate.

an individual or organization designated to receive benefits or funds under a will or other contract, such as an insurance policy, trust or retirement plan

Bequest Language

"I, [name], of [city, state, ZIP], give, devise and bequeath to Be The Match Foundation [written amount or percentage of the estate or description of property] for its unrestricted use and purpose."

able to be changed or cancelled

A revocable living trust is set up during your lifetime and can be revoked at any time before death. They allow assets held in the trust to pass directly to beneficiaries without probate court proceedings and can also reduce federal estate taxes.

cannot be changed or cancelled

tax on gifts generally paid by the person making the gift rather than the recipient

the original value of an asset, such as stock, before its appreciation or depreciation

the growth in value of an asset like stock or real estate since the original purchase

the price a willing buyer and willing seller can agree on

The person receiving the gift annuity payments.

the part of an estate left after debts, taxes and specific bequests have been paid

a written and properly witnessed legal change to a will

the person named in a will to manage the estate, collect the property, pay any debt, and distribute property according to the will

A donor advised fund is an account that you set up but which is managed by a nonprofit organization. You contribute to the account, which grows tax-free. You can recommend how much (and how often) you want to distribute money from that fund to Be The Match or other charities. You cannot direct the gifts.

An endowed gift can create a new endowment or add to an existing endowment. The principal of the endowment is invested and a portion of the principal’s earnings are used each year to support our mission.

Tax on the growth in value of an asset—such as real estate or stock—since its original purchase.

Securities, real estate or any other property having a fair market value greater than its original purchase price.

Real estate can be a personal residence, vacation home, timeshare property, farm, commercial property or undeveloped land.

A charitable remainder trust provides you or other named individuals income each year for life or a period not exceeding 20 years from assets you give to the trust you create.

You give assets to a trust that pays our organization set payments for a number of years, which you choose. The longer the length of time, the better the potential tax savings to you. When the term is up, the remaining trust assets go to you, your family or other beneficiaries you select. This is an excellent way to transfer property to family members at a minimal cost.

You fund this type of trust with cash or appreciated assets—and may qualify for a federal income tax charitable deduction when you itemize. You can also make additional gifts; each one also qualifies for a tax deduction. The trust pays you, each year, a variable amount based on a fixed percentage of the fair market value of the trust assets. When the trust terminates, the remaining principal goes to Be The Match as a lump sum.

You fund this trust with cash or appreciated assets—and may qualify for a federal income tax charitable deduction when you itemize. Each year the trust pays you or another named individual the same dollar amount you choose at the start. When the trust terminates, the remaining principal goes to Be The Match as a lump sum.

A beneficiary designation clearly identifies how specific assets will be distributed after your death.

A charitable gift annuity involves a simple contract between you and Be The Match where you agree to make a gift to Be The Match and we, in return, agree to pay you (and someone else, if you choose) a fixed amount each year for the rest of your life.

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