If you’ve ever had your wallet stolen, you know how convenient it is to have a photocopy of the important contents: your credit cards, driver’s license, insurance cards. You might know how inconvenient it is to NOT have those items copied. You’re suddenly sifting through old bills, files and paperwork to make the calls and stop the accounts, hoping beyond hope you haven’t forgotten one, or taken too long. Basically, wishing you had been more prepared.
In a similar way, preparedness is a gift to your family members as you age. Experts advise that you have your plans and wishes documented. There are many elder care lawyers available to help with this process. Prepare a will; designate an executor; talk about end-of-life decisions with your family before you’re in the frenzy of the moment.
Often times it’s just organizing your materials. Documents organized in a filing cabinet, stored in a fire-proof safe, or within an electronic spreadsheet of accounts, numbers and important passwords make it much easier on your caregiver or family members, and with help, you can get your papers in order.
The job is not an afternoon in the park, by any means. But setting aside a little time every day or week until you can check off items from the checklist below will put your worries at ease, make you feel more in control of your life and make the path much clearer for your loved ones when they are focused on you.
Follow this basic checklist of important documents and information for your loved ones:
- Birth certificate
- Social Security records
- Health and life insurance records, including your account numbers
- The names and phone numbers of your primary care doctor, as well as significant specialists you’ve seen. You may also include documentation of your recent medical history
- Advance directives. If you don’t have an advance directive, start with your family doctor, attorney or long-term care facility
- Name of clergy or layperson
- Funeral pre-arrangements, if you’ve made them
- Medicare documentation
- Trust documents
- Will documents
- Military records
- Divorce records
Deserving of its own checklist are the following financial documents:
- assets and sources of income
- bank accounts/safe-deposit box
- mortgage papers
- investment records
- negotiable securities
- credit cards
- your most recent income tax return
- loans, payments and balances
Gathering this information in advance and talking to your caregivers or loved ones before there’s a health scare or you’re unable to do so lessens the burden of confusion and grief. It’s a gift of preparedness that will make a difference.