Think for a moment about what would happen if you suddenly became incapacitated, or suddenly passed away.
Would your spouse or family know what to do?
Would they know who to call for help?
Would they be able to access (or even find) online accounts or files on your computer?
Would they know where to find important records and documents?
Organizing this information can alleviate unnecessary anxiety and turmoil if the unthinkable were ever to happen.
This basic list will help you start thinking of the critical information you would want your family to have.
- legal documents (will, living trust, health care documents);
- list of medications you are taking;
- list of your advisors (attorney, CPA, banker, insurance agent, financial advisor, physicians);
- insurance policies (health and life);
- year-end bank and investment account statements;
- storage facility location, access method, and inventory;
- list of other assets, including location, account numbers, date purchased and purchase price;
- safe deposit box location, list of contents and location of key;
- list of people to whom you owe money (mortgage, credit cards, etc.);
- list of people who owe you money;
- death or disability benefits from organizations;
- past tax returns.
Many of your records are probably on a computer or stored online. If you scan documents or receive financial statements electronically, your family may not even know they exist. Family photos may be stored digitally or online. Much of this information is password protected.
Actions to Consider
- Give current copies of your health care documents to your physicians and designated agent(s).
- Keep your original documents in one safe place, like a fireproof safe or safe deposit box. Make copies for the notebook described next.
- Buy one or two three-ring binders to organize your personal and financial information, or show your family where to find them on the computer. Include locations, contact information, and account numbers.
- Include a list of online accounts and how to access them (including passwords).
- Clean up your computer desktop and put important files in an easy-to-find desktop folder.
- Have a trial run. Ask your spouse or other family member (or your successor trustee or executor) to pretend that he or she needs to access needed information.
- At least once a year, review and update your notebook, computer desktop files and passwords for online accounts.
If you have questions about organizing your information, please contact my office.