Serious emergencies and even death can come when most unexpected, which is why important information should be kept safe and organized. Being prepared is the best way to make sure your affairs are handled according to your wishes, if you become incapacitated or pass away.
No one likes to think of the inevitable, but you will give your family members a gift of great significance by coordinating information they would need in a serious emergency. In such situations, those responsible to handle things usually experience confusion, exhaustion, and extreme stress, as they try to figure out what their loved one would have wanted. From knowing your preferences in receiving medical care to funeral arrangements and how to handle your financial matters, your family could benefit from the efforts you make to prepare. Getting organized for an emergency is an excellent thing to do, and there are tools that can help.
What Documents to Gather & Where to Keep Them
There quite a few documents to prepare and organize, if you want to be truly prepared for whatever emergency arises. The documents need to be stored in a fireproof box, file cabinet, or safe. At least one family member should be informed of the location of your important papers. The following are the recommended documents:
- Your Last Will and Testament.
- A Living Revocable Trust. This is needed in the event that you are no longer able to handle your own affairs. A trustee must be appointed, and your assets will be transferred directly to your beneficiaries. This avoids the necessity of going through the legal process of probate.
- A Living Will. The purpose of a living will is for you to make known your preferences for end-of-life medical treatment, in the event you can’t speak for yourself.
- Healthcare Power of Attorney. If you are seriously injured or incapacitated, it is helpful if you have appointed someone to have the final world regarding your medical care. This eliminates the possibility of legal battles among relatives.
- Financial Power of Attorney. Through Financial Power of Attorney, you authorize someone to manage your finances for you. This could help to ensure that your estate doesn’t rack up debt by failing to meet ongoing financial obligations.
- Beneficiary Accounts. Make it easy for your beneficiaries to file a claim and receive benefits from your life insurance policy and retirement or annuity accounts.
- Copy of Marriage & Divorce Documents. Simplify matters by having documents such as marriage licenses and divorce decrees handy so that ownership could be transferred to a surviving spouse or denied on a false claim of spousal benefits.
- Copy of your Last Tax Return. Even after you die, a final tax return should be filed for you. This can help to avoid complications with your estate.
- Financial Accounts. Details about your bank accounts and involvements with other financial institutions, including outstanding debts, should be recorded for the benefit of family members.
Cover Important Details
Your family will need more than your important documents, if you want to equip them to handle your affairs with ease. The details are different for everyone, but the following are the types of things that you may also need to organize:
- Help survivors avoid arguments by writing out clear directions for the executor of your will. Detail your instructions on managing and distributing the entirety of your estate.
- Make a set of all of your keys, and use key tags to designate what each key is for. This may include house, car, safe deposit box, and more.
- Leave passwords and log-ins for your computer(s) and all online accounts your family members will need access to.
- Provide detailed instructions and retrieval codes, if you have cryptocurrency.
- Organize the files on your computer.
- File paperwork showing such things as the emergency contact you designated to access your safe deposit box in your absence.
- Organize names and phone numbers your family members may need when handling your affairs.
The Best Way to Organize Detailed Emergency Information
No one knows better than people like medical professionals, estate specialists, and funeral directors how painfully difficult the task is for family members handling a deceased person’s affairs. Organizing important documents and providing details is invaluable! That’s why a Certified Estate and Trust Specialist came up with the Family Emergency Card. This resource has forms that can be filled out on a computer or printed out and written by hand. With the Family Emergency Card, everything is covered, with nothing missing. Simply fill out every category that applies to you, adding your information. With access to this resource, your family will find that no guesswork is involved in handling your estate. There are even places for personal notes and encouragements.
With the proper documents, a fireproof place to store your important papers, and the Family Emergency Card, everything will be conveniently organized for your loved ones, in the event you die or are no longer able to handle things on your own.
To create a family emergency plan for your family click here
Contributing writer: Stephanie McHugh
About the Editor: Bryan Beeler is a Certified Estate and Trust Specialist