What's in your glove compartment?

This guest blog post is by my colleague and friend, Michele Allinote, a lawyer in Cornwall, Ontario, Canada:

Last Wednesday night, my husband had picked up our children so I was enjoying a rare quiet drive home by myself when I noticed a police cruiser following me. I made a mental note not to pull anything out of my purse, lest the officer think I was violating Ontario’s new anti-cellphone law. Other than that, I checked my speed and distance and, knowing that I wasn’t doing anything wrong, I settled in to my seat.

And then the lights went on. I pulled over and looked for my license and ownership, wondering why the heck I was pulled over. The officer’s introduction was “Your sticker is expired. It says December 2009.”. That would be my husband’s job I explain and that I was sure he had renewed the sticker, but maybe just hadn’t put the new one on. He asked for my ownership and insurance so he could run the vehicle.

And this is where it gets embarrassing. Do you think I could find the documents I needed? I rifled through the glove compartment, throwing Tim Horton’s napkins and ketchup packets all over the place. When the contents had all been dumped in the front seat and on the floor, I found the ownership for the vehicle. Then the officer asked for a current insurance certificate, since the one I gave him was from 2006. I didn’t even own the car in 2006, how did that get in there? I rifled through all the stuff I had emptied out of the glove compartment, looking at all the little pink insurance slips that my husband must have shoved in there as we received each policy renewal. I finally found the current one and gave it to the officer.

When all was said and done, the officer found that yes, the plates had been renewed. He cautioned me to put on the current sticker and I was on my way.

You are probably asking right now what is the point of this whole story, right? Well, the point is that although I have no burning desire to organize the contents of my glove compartment, it is something that needs to be done. If I wouldn’t have been able to find the documents the officer needed, I would have gotten a ticket (or two), for no other reason than not being organized and not being prepared.

It is the same thing with doing an estate plan. No one really wants to come and see me to talk about what will happen after they die, but it is something that needs to be done. Part of the process I bring clients through is a review of their financial picture which requires them to gather organize their information. I do this using our Legal Needs Questionnaire and by providing clients with a Peace of Mind Personal Inventory…

Michele’s process is similar to my own. Often it is the process of preparing for their Peace of Mind Planning Session with me that helps my clients begin to gather in one place all their important financial information. And often estate planning leads to more comprehensive financial planning and vice-versa. It doesn’t make much sense to work so hard to accumulate wealth to provide for your family and then do nothing to protect it from unnecessary taxes, fees, and expenses that can be at least partially if not entirely avoided. Where do you want your hard-earned money to go? To your children? Your extended family? To a charity of your choosing? When you create an estate plan for your family, you decide what, when, where, and how your money goes. But Step 1 is getting it all organized, and your estate planning attorney and/or financial advisor can help you get started.

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