One of the #1 secrets to being organized is being able to write things down in a concise manner. The fine art of “list writing” can range from writing a daily “to-do” list to writing travel, password, home maintenance and hurricane checklists, to name a few.
Regrettably, the most important lists, those having to do with the inevitable – sickness, injury and death – are the toughest ones to write. Today’s column is meant to help you; your parents and your children plan for the future by helping you prepare the most important lists of all.
Not a day goes by that I don’t receive an urgent telephone call from a widow, widower or child of an aging parent, asking me to help them sort through months (years) of paperwork, bills, bank and credit card records, HUD statements, insurance policies and financial statements; not to mention trying to help the person decipher what’s current; what’s missing, what to keep and what to shred.
Rich or poor, the exact scenario may differ from client to client, but the bottom line is always the same, as no one has a clue what’s going on, where things are kept, what passwords and user names will/won’t work, what bills are due and when; whom to call and a host of other concerns, all which need to be taken care of in a timely manner.
Being proactive and preparing a detailed list of accounts, passwords and other relevant information in advance will help your loved ones as they navigate the challenges of dealing with sickness and death.
Accounts & Addresses:
Create a detailed “Accounts & Addresses” list (aka: Doomsday List, Death Book…), which should include, among other things, all utility accounts, bank and credit card accounts, insurance policies, investments, frequent flyer accounts, online shopping sites and computer/software account information, to name a few. Don’t forget to list memberships (Sam’s Club, Costco and Amazon Prime), as well as magazine subscriptions!
The Accounts List should include: account type, payee, policy numbers, telephone numbers, URL and email addresses, as well as all passwords, user names and security questions/answers. Be sure to reference if the account is on auto-pay or auto-deposit and to include the payment type (i.e.: bank/electronic funds transfer or credit card deduction), the credit card to be charged and the day of the month the transaction takes place, as well as the average monthly/quarterly charge. Besides being prepared for a life-changing event, if your credit card is ever compromised, you’ll have easy access to the necessary contact information.
How you store this information (in a safe, under the mattress or in the Cloud) is up to you, just make sure you have a very detailed and current list and that someone knows how to access it, and remember, you can never have too much information.
Personally, I think it’s easier to keep track of automatic payments and automatic deposits simply by highlighting these items on the “Accounts & Addresses” list mentioned above, but for those of you, who prefer having a separate “auto-pay” list, be sure to write everything down.
If you’re wondering how to figure out what’s on Auto-pay, simply review every single bank and credit card statement for the past four to six months, making note of any and all “reoccurring” charges. If there’s something on your statement you don’t want, don’t need or don’t use, or worse, a charge you don’t recognize or never approved, demand to have the auto-pay option removed, immediately.
Miscellaneous list: This list should include the address for any off-site storage unit(s) you may be renting, as well as the location of the key (or combination). If you have a safety deposit box, write that information down as well. I suggest giving your lawyer a copy of this list for safekeeping.
In Case of Emergency List:
Recently my mother sent all four of her children a letter listing whom to call in case of an emergency, including her lawyer and accountant’s names, telephone numbers and email addresses, as well as the names and telephone numbers for her primary care doctor and five best friends should there ever (God forbid) be an emergency.
Taking this one step further, I suggested she include her lawyer and doctor’s names on the In Case of Emergency card (I.C.E. Card), which, at my insistence, she keeps in her wallet and carries with her at all times. (See: Naples Daily News/December 18, 2015/Get Organized: In an emergency, having an ICE Card could save your life).
The way I see it, when it comes to being prepared, one can never be too organized.