By Ricki Pagano, MSW CLTC
Author of "For The Record: A Personal Facts and Document Organizer"
Five Star Publications - AZ - www.ForTheRecordBook.com
If you're like most people, you have some good personal and financial records. It's just that they're in a dozen or more locations known only to you.
I grew up in a household where it was not unusual for my mom to be frantically running around "Where is my purse?", "Where are my keys?", and "Where are my glasses?". Perhaps that can explain why I have adopted the keep it simple principle. When I enter my home, my keys, purse, and glasses are placed on the counter in the laundry room. The same should apply to personal and vital information. Ideally, there is a central location where this information can be referenced and accessible to you, your spouse or your family.
GETTING YOUR HOUSE IN ORDER
Start by compiling the following information complete with account numbers, phone numbers, and addresses: Emergency plan-list emergency contact and any instructions Family information-name and contact information for immediate family members Medical information-names, addresses, phone numbers of physicians, specialists Medical history-list of medications, allergies, medical problems, treatments Insurance information-Health, Life, Disability Income, Long Term Care, Homeowner's, Auto, Mortgage Legal information-Attorney's contact information, location of legal documents Location of personal documents-Social Security card, Birth Certificate, Marriage Certificate, Real Estate documents, Insurance policies, Tax Returns, Employment Records, Title for Home, Auto, Loan documents, spare keys, safety deposit box key Financial information-name of advisors, CPA's contact information, Bank, Brokerage Account, Retirement Accounts, Credit Cards, Contents of Safety Deposit Box Personal Property-Inventory of jewelry, artwork, collectibles, furniture, other valuables Final arrangements-Cemetery, Mortuary preferences, Organ Donation information
Set up an organizational system to store this information such as a notebook, binder, file system or software program. Once established, have a copy stored in a place where you or your family can locate and update it periodically. One option would be a fire safe box. You may want to give a copy to your attorney or legal representative.
Have a Will, Medical Power of Attorney, Living Will, Financial Power of Attorney
Once organizing system is set up, it is important to review and update periodically
Communicate with family the location of your vital information and documents
It is probably not wise to list all of your passwords to online accounts in one place
Need to save tax returns and supporting documentation for 7 years
Carry an emergency list of loved ones, doctors and advisors, medical information in your wallet
THE TIME TO PLAN IS NOW
A sudden unforeseen event can happen to us at any age, so it is important to act now while you are healthy. If you read the paper, you know there are many who have failed to put their medical and financial wishes in writing. As a result, families who are under tremendous stress as it is are battling over the authority of medical decision making or insignificant details not addressed in a will.
Some questions to ask yourself: If you had a house fire, would you easily be able to grab your vital information? If you had a medical emergency, would your spouse or family be able to locate your medical directives? Would you be able to locate your spouse's medical directives? If something were to happen to you and your spouse, have you designated a guardian for your minor children? What would you want to happen if you became disabled or died? Have you addressed this in your estate plan?
I will leave you with this thought. I received a call from my mother last night informing me that she left her keys in a store (I am not making this up). In order to have a copy made of her car key, she needed to bring in the title to her car. She reports she actually found her car title without a problem! However, after having a duplicate key made for $100, the store contacted her to inform her they found her keys. To add insult to injury, her housekeeper found her spare car key. Organizing mom continues to be a work in progress.