Plan ahead and make sure that your personal information is safe and accessible.
We all have important paperwork and documents that may need to be accessed by someone other than ourselves in case of an accident. Planning to stay in place independently includes making sure that all of your important information is organized, inclusive and easy to access. This will help your friends and family members rest assured that if there ever is an accident or emergency, they’ll be able to locate important paperwork and can make decisions and choices that you have already determined. This goes both ways, with you knowing what papers you should have, and your next of kin being able to find them.
There are 3 levels of documents and information that we all need to keep safe.
The first important information that might be needed immediately are your medical history and medical insurance policies.
Make a medical folder or notebook that is easy to access. Include;
- Medical history, including current medications
- Doctors names and their phone numbers
- Emergency contact names and phone numbers
- Insurance information; member numbers, carriers and phone numbers
- Any allergies to food or drugs
Financial and Identification Information
After a fall or accident, it’s possible that you’ll need to stay in a rehabilitation facility. Make it easy for your significant other or caretaker to take care of the daily and monthly finances. Consider putting this information into one one folder or binder;
- Credit card numbers, names of financial institution and phone numbers
- Bank account numbers and phone numbers
- List of monthly bills and due dates
- Insurance information including home, life, personal umbrella and whatever other policies you have
- Location of investment information
- Living will
Other useful identification documents that can be included in this folder;
- Birth certificates
- Marriage Licence
- Social Security Card
- Passport/ Naturalization papers
- Military discharge papers
- Attorney / Executor name and contact information
- Financial planner’s name and contact information
It will be helpful to include any legal documents you might have like your will and life insurance. Some documents can only be used if they are originals and signed. Your lawyer may be able to keep the originals, but you should still have copies. Here is a short list of some that should be organized, preferably in a folder or notebook.
- Mortgage papers
- Life insurance policies
- Power of Attorney
- Trust documents
- Property deeds
Check with your attorney and accountant for their advice on what they think should be included in these paper.
How to store the documents
Medical and emergency information should be readily available. There may be a place in your kitchen or study are two good places. Mark the folder clearly with big letters stating “Emergency Information” with a bright colored binding.
The daily financial information can be stored in a filing cabinet, locked if you prefer. Make sure that whoever might be taking over bill paying knows where to find these documents.
Some of this information is very personal, and doesn’t need to be stored within reach. Safety deposit boxes are great places for these documents. If possible, add a trustee or executor to the signature form that the bank or institution is located. This gives only one or two other people easy access to the information.
Attorneys are another resource for storing legal documents such as wills and deeds. Ask yours if they offer that service.
Consider storing copies or thumb drives of photos, keepsakes and any memorabilia that is important to keep within the family. Thumb drives are dependable technology for storage.
This AARP recommended website has great tools to easily find and organize important documents.
Make sure that your parents have all of this information easily available, too. The conversation may be tough to start because nobody wants to think about getting so sick that you won’t be able to take care of your own affairs. Of course, that’s a reality we all face, and it’s better to plan ahead. It’s been my experience that starting the conversation early is easier than later, when resistance to sharing or change is great. Remember to do the same thing for your own documents. It’s never to early to start being prepared and organized.
If you have any questions add them in the comments below.