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Get Your Affairs in Order Before It Is Too Late to Do So

  February 22, 2021

The old joke “If you want to give the Gods a laugh, tell them your plans” summed up my 2020. A cancer diagnosis, surgeries, various treatments, and a slow recovery meant my intentions for the year took wings and flew out the window.

As devastating and frightening as it was at the time, I had complete peace of mind in one area of my life: all my personal affairs were sorted, ordered, and fully documented and had been so for some years. My sister knew where my important papers were kept, and where I had stored them (in fire-resistant document bags) in a metal filing cabinet in my office. This included our family histories (mothers’ and fathers’ sides), birth, death and marriage certificates, my father’s/uncles’ war records, and old photographs.

I’d also written a comprehensive “How to Wrap Up My Business” guide that included lists of my service providers, memberships, insurances, login passwords and bank accounts.

Statistically, very few individuals get their affairs in order. Common excuses include “it’s too depressing”, “I’ll do it later”, “I’m too busy”, “My partner will sort everything out”, “I don’t know where to start”, and “I’ll be dead, it’s not my problem”. Strangely enough though, these same people would manage other uncomplicated tasks, like painting the kitchen, planning an overseas holiday, or going on holiday in a campervan.

So, for any faint-hearted readers who haven’t yet got their personal and business affairs in order (or updated their existing information for a while), the following list is a ‘must do as soon as possible’. Your family and loved ones will thank you for it.

An Advance Care Plan and an Advance Directive (Living Will)

  • Complete an Advance Care Plan to record what you want your family/friends and health professionals know what you want in relation to any current and future health care.
  • Complete an Advance Directive to make choices about a possible future health care procedure. It will only take effect if you are not competent/or unconscious.

Digital Assets

  • Document all of your digital assets (email accounts, social media, mobile phones etc).
  • Document any domain names, data storage sites, and family history (digital).

Enduring Powers of Attorney (EPA) and Trusts

  • Establish EPAs for your personal care and welfare.
  • Establish EPAs for your property/properties.
  • Record the nominated person(s) contact details.
  • Record the location of the documents.


  • Document all your financial information (bank accounts, service providers).
  • Document all your investments (description of items; location of items).


  • List all service providers (e.g. your National Health ID number, dental practice, optician etc).


  • List all providers and policy numbers (e.g. vehicle, home, health, dental, income protection, etc).


  • List all your investments (e.g. antiques, bonds, artworks, land, shares, superannuation funds).
  • List the location of the items and supporting documentation, and description of each item.


  • List location of any deeds/ownership papers to joint property and to one’s own property.
  • Record details of formal business partnerships and informal business partnerships.


  • List all loans – assets you have loaned to others and want returned to you.
  • List all loans – liabilities you owe others, including mortgages, credit cards etc.
  • List all money that is owed to you by others.


  • List all memberships, contact details and membership numbers (e.g. airline frequent flyers, etc)

Personal Information

  • Document your full legal name, address, contact details, occupation and next of kin.
  • Collate and document your certificates: birth, marriage, divorce certificates.
  • Record that you are an organ doner (if applicable).
  • List your military service details.
  • Record your IR/Inland Revenue numbers.
  • Record your passport details, the name of your lawyer, and accountant.
  • Record pets’ microchips and licenses; and contact details of Veterinarian.
  • Record location of family history (physical records).
  • Record history of your physical home(s) and location of relevant documentation.
  • Record your key service providers – power, gas, window cleaners, etc.


  • Make a will if you don’t have one – go to an attorney for this.
  • Change your will when a major life change occurs, your finances change, or beneficiaries die.
  • Let your loved ones know where your will is kept.

While the list may look long, the process of getting all our affairs in order and updated doesn’t take much time at all. Remember: “Where there’s a will, there’s a way”. “Where’s there’s a will, there’s a relative”. “Dying is the most embarrassing thing that can ever happen to you, because someone’s got to take care of all your details”. (Andy Warhol).

If you need support and guidance through the process of getting all your affairs in order, let me know. I’d be delighted to be your guide on the side.


ICF Professional Cerfified Coach

Sue Dwan, MBA, of Dwan &Associates Ltd, is a Professional Certified Coach (PCC) through the International Coach Federation (ICF, 2004), and a Coach U Certificate Graduate (CUCG, 2004). She is an Educational Writer, a Change Agent, a Management/Business Coach, a Mentor in the Community, and a ‘doer of interesting work, at clients’ request’.

Her passion is to enable individuals to develop personally and professionally; and organisations to prosper. She lives in Christchurch, New Zealand.

Her publications include: Clarify Your Intentions - Get Your Affairs in Order (Before it is too late) (2014); Clear The Way – Get Your Affairs in Order (Before it is too late) (2014); Clear The Way – Get Your Affairs in Order (Before it is too late) (2014); Wrap Up Your Business (Get Your Affairs in Order (Before it is too late) (2014).

Author of 4 ebooks: The Kiwi Sisters’ Camino Portugues; The Kiwi Sisters Camino de Santiago; Techniques to Counter Common Time Thieves; the Beginners Guide to Management.

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