The end of Tax Season has me thinking about how we save important documents and records. I am newly married and have serious health problems. I am also the one who is responsible for all financial, legal, medical and business records. This worries me in the event that if I should become hospitalized, or worse, my dear husband will have no idea what is where.
My files are in a combination of electronic, paper copies in a filing cabinet (with the strangest system for ordering them), and bins. I generally know where things are, but my systems would not be obvious to anyone else.
My will and Power of Attorney (POA) have not been updated since getting remarried. Most recent was a couple years after my divorce, so at least my POA is not my ex. I keep a medical file fairly up to date with current medicines, conditions, allergies and contacts, but the file is buried in my computer and the little wallet-size copies I made family are now outdated. My husband does not have either Will or POA.
While 99% of our bills are automated, account information is in a smattering of electronic and paper files. If I become incapacitated, my husband would have to struggle to figure it all out. Further, if there was a fire, flood or theft, everything might be lost and even more difficult to deal with.
I am planning on putting together some type of digital ‘folder’ that can be easily updated and stored on both a flash drive and in remote storage on the ‘Cloud.’ It will have scanned copies of wills, POA, copies of identification, medical, insurance and account information. The flash drive could be kept somewhere safe outside the home, such as in a safe deposit box or with a relative. Using Cloud storage would be even better, but I need to feel confident it would be secure. We could keep the information for that account with trusted relatives.
The Would’ve Should’ve Game
Part of being a responsible adult is being proactive with these issues. No one likes talking about illness and death, but leaving everything to others to sort out isn’t pleasant either. Things like life insurance, trusts and Living Wills have to be in place well before the time they are needed.
My ex-husband and I set up a trust for our son when he was very young. He has autism and we were not sure what kind of situation he would be in, or what his capabilities would be, when he reached adulthood. We wanted to have something in place to declare who would be responsible for him financially and legally, and who would determine what would be best for him as he moved into adulthood, in the event we both died at the same time.
Take the 6 Month Challenge
If you have not taken the time to sit down and discuss these serious issues, or get important documents in place, challenge yourself to have them in place by the end of the year. It will give you peace of mind and ensure your family is able to function after loss or tragedy. Here are key steps to have everything in place and organized in 6 months:
Month 1 — Have frank discussions with family about who will be entrusted with your will and POA, your children’s welfare, etc. Make known if you have certain preferences about life support, funeral and burial options.
Month 2 — Meet with an attorney to draw up a Will, POA, Living Will and something to specify responsibility for your children.
Month 3 — Meet with an agent to discuss life insurance.
Month 4 — Organize important documents, identification, up to date medical records on all family members, account information, and passwords, in a way that someone can easily find crucial data in a timely manner. Discuss with loved ones where this information is located.
Month 5 — Review how the finances are set up, what bills are automated, and where accounts are held.
Month 6 — Implement a safe storage method for all this information so important records are not lost in case of fire, flood or theft.
Will you take this challenge with my family?