With the busy holiday season, you probably don't have much time to think about finances this week. But as you approach the new year, take some time to compile or update your personal financial statement and

Last-Chance Gifting Opportunity

The clock is running out to use the gift tax exclusion for the year. Once New Year's Eve is over, so is the 2013 exclusion. You can give $14,000 to as many recipients as you want. (You and your spouse can jointly give $28,000.)

For 2014, the annual gift tax exemption will remain at $14,000.

By giving away assets while you're alive, you can significantly trim the value of your taxable estate.

If you want to take maximum advantage of the annual exclusion in the near future, year-end is a perfect time. Let's say you and your spouse want to give your son at least $50,000 to help with a down payment on a house. Together, you give him $28,000 before December 31 ($14,000 each for 2013). Then, on New Year's Day or shortly after, you can give him another $28,000 for the 2014 tax year ($14,000 each).

But don't wait until the very last minute. If a gift is made by check, it should be delivered by December 31 and deposited by the recipient to qualify for the 2013 annual exclusion. However, the check can be paid by your bank in 2014.

make a list of important documents.

Think of this inventory as a snapshot of your financial situation. It can make tasks like tax return preparation, estate planning, calculating your net worth, and applying for a loan much easier.

The exact items on your list depend on your personal situation but here are some recommendations of what to include:  


Investments including stocks, bonds, mutual funds, futures contracts, warrants and options. What is the current market value for such securities? List your purchase price, number of units held, and factors such as dividends and maturity dates.
Real estate. What is the current value and where are the deeds and policies of title insurance for your principal residence and other investment property?

Life insurance policies, annuities, IRAs, pensions and profit sharing plans.

Long-term royalties due to you. 

Partnerships and trusts.

Interest in a closely held business. 
Bank accounts,
certificates of deposit, U.S. Savings Bonds, Treasury securities. List the bank, the account number, balance and any yield or maturity dates.

Automobiles, boats, recreational vehicles and motorcycles.

Other personal property,
such as valuable jewelry and collectibles.


Short-term liabilities,
such as the amount owed on credit cards and installment loans. List the accounts, numbers and balances.

Long-term liabilities, including the amount owed on mortgages and loans for college, cars, home improvement and other purposes.

Unpaid taxes.


Safe deposit box. 
What is the bank and number? Where is the key? 

Military service documents, which enable the collection of veterans' benefits. Where are they located?

Estate planning essentials. Where is the original of your will located and who has copies? Who are the executors? Do you own any burial plots?

Advisers. List the names and phone numbers of your accountant, attorney, securities broker and insurance agent.

Insurance policies for home, automobiles and other property. Where are the titles and registration papers for these assets?

Tax Returns. Where are copies of past tax returns located?

Remember:  Once the list is complete, store it safely. Update it when necessary. And make sure your loved ones know where to find it. You might also want to give a copy to your tax adviser to seek advice about saving on income taxes and minimizing estate taxes.

© Bizactions LLC.