How to get your financial affairs in order before you die with Jennifer Black and Rob Carrick
Getting Affairs in Order in Case of Death or Health Crisis
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My 75-year-old cousin was making chicken soup for the holidays two weeks ago. All of a sudden she complained of a severe headache, passed out and died of an aneurysm. No warning; otherwise healthy. Now her husband is left to muddle through all the paperwork because her “affairs were not in order.” My father, the lawyer, was speaking to me on the phone from Florida and 20 minutes later had a heart attack that killed him. It took us months to sort through his stuff to find the papers we needed to settle his estate. My friend had brain surgery for a tumor, is now exhibiting memory deficits, and her husband and business colleagues cannot figure out her password to access her home or office computer. These scenarios are but a few examples of events from my life. My point? All of us should take the time to organize our important paper work before a crisis occurs.
As we reach middle age we all should have three basic documents:
- A will to denote how we want to dispose of our assets and care for minor children or disabled adults under our guardianship.
- A Durable Power of Attorney who will carry out our wishes should we be incapacitated.
- A Living Will/Advanced Directives/Health Care Power of Attorney-a document stating our wishes medically and the designation of someone to carry them out.
Consider creating a “map” that would lead others on the path to finding your documents so they know what it is they are looking for and where exactly to find it. Start the list by going through all the places you keep the important papers and list the location and contents. For example “In the back of my top dresser drawer are the insurance policies and my living will.”
Then make some master lists with as much contact and access information as you can provide:
- The location of home desks, hidden cabinets and drawers, home safe with combination or locks and any other non-obvious document storage locations.
- Information about your lawyer and all his contact information.
- Banking information including lists of the institutions, types of accounts, account numbers,
account owners, safe deposit boxes along with the box number and keys. Also note the name and contact information for any accountant, stock broker or financial advisor who may have other information on file.
- A listing of all credit card accounts noting the provider and account numbers.
- All insurance policies (health, life, property, auto, long term care, etc.) along with the name
and contact info for the agents.
- List all irreplaceable items that are locked up (either home or in a safety deposit box)
including jewelry, heirlooms, and documents such as marriage license, birth certificates, passports, stocks, bonds and death certificates. Make a photocopy of those documents for your household files and consider taking pictures of the jewelry or other items.
- Other important information; list all dates and places of birth, relative’s names and contact
information, employers with dates of employment, all property, mortgage information, utilities with names of companies, account numbers with schedules of payments, and recent tax returns.
- Label your keys for your car(s), office, house, vacation home, boat, etc.
- A list of all regular deliveries such as newspapers, milk and all regular service providers such as lawn and snow removal.
- Waste collection schedule.
- Your password to log into your computer and passwords to all your online accounts.
- When you have finished, store a copy of this document:
- In a clearly marked folder in your home or office in a place that is safeguarded but will be able
to be found by the appropriate person.
- With your attorney, friend or family member or other trusted person who does not live with you.
- In your safe deposit box if you have one.
This exercise will take some time; especially if you need to create a “map” for those you might be caring for. But it will be well worth the effort. Let me know if I left something off my list or if you have other suggestions for tracking these all important items.
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