August 2, 2011

Preparing for Death: Records for Family and Executor "If I Get Hit by a Bus"

Brad Woodward's guest post last week reminded me to wrap up the task of providing my executor and kids with the personal, financial and medical records they'll need. While I'm good at gathering information and getting organized, too often I drop the ball when it comes to following through. I hope you'll do better.

The Quick and Easy Basic Record List
 At rock bottom, we should pull together this information:

Your social security number
Names, phone numbers, and e-mail addresses of:
  • Family members
  • Primary care doctor and other key doctors (for me, my neurologist and urologist since Parkinson's and prostate cancer are major health issues)
  • Executor of will and, if different, the attorney for health care
  • Professional advisers -- lawyer, tax accountant, broker, insurance agent
Other personal information:
  • Employers and dates of employment
  • The employee benefits honcho at your place of employment
  • Education and military records
  • Medications taken regularly
  • Location of passports
  • Written instructions regarding funeral, burial or cremation
List your accounts and the institutions where they are located. No need to include account numbers if you've entered your social security number.

Where to find these key papers:
  • Current bank, credit union, safety box (also location of key), mutual fund, and brokerage account information (and PIN numbers, passwords, and toll-free numbers)
  • Credit and debit cards (with toll-free numbers)
  • Employee benefits information
  • Life insurance, auto insurance, medical insurance policies and/or current statement with policy numbers and agents names and phone numbers
  • Mortgage and title papers on real estate property
  • Income tax returns for past 3 years
  • Marriage license and, if applicable, divorce papers
  • Prenuptial agreements
  • Birth certificates, citizenship, and adoption papers 
  • The original of your will. (A copy won't do.)
  • Living will and advance directives and durable power of attorney
  • The forms naming your retirement and investment account beneficiaries
More Advanced Bells and Whistles
Today's technology permits gathering and storing detailed information if you're computer savvy or know someone who is. Here are some possibilities:
  • A scanner and USB drive permits copying and storing the text of important documents such as Form 1040 tax returns for the last 3 years, birth certificates, marriage licenses, house deed, insurance policy pages that list coverage.
  • If you have a camcorder or a digital camera, you can make an inventory of your major possessions by walking around each room and taking pictures of them. Describe each item on the camcorder sound track or in the file name of the digital photo.
  • Devices are available to store essential medical information. See for example the Jakoter Health Tag which uses a USB flash drive to store a wealth of medical information and includes a special section with the medical information that would be needed by emergency room staffers.
Here's the link to Brad Woodward's guest post last week:

1 comment:

Pat Swords said...

This is a really helpful post, John!  Thanks