Do you know when an emergency will arise and you will find yourself in an ambulance on the way to a medical facility? No.
Perhaps you have a planned surgical procedure, and you are due at the hospital in 30 minutes and find yourself asking, “What if something goes wrong and I become incapacitated or die?” The intellectual side of you knows that mishaps can and do happen on rare occasions, but that emotional side of you is certain that this has nothing to do with you.
Last week, I found myself on the phone with my oldest son telling him to take notes about my assets and liabilities 30 minutes before I was due at Upper Valley Medical Center for a routine surgical procedure. I informed him that he would need to look, because my papers are buried in stacks of folders and papers around my home office desk.
My issue was, and is, that I need to have my “important papers,” as my mother referred to them, in a single place. My mother always said, “If something ever happens to me, know that all my important papers are in that big black pocketbook in my bedroom closet.”
She, in other words, without a safe, a computer, or even a simple portfolio, had that component of her life organized – in an old black purse.
As the holidays are now upon us, you might want to consider taking time out from tree decorating, party/meal planning, gift buying and such to organize your important papers. It could well be the most important gift you will give your family and yourself.
Your list of “important papers” will certainly differ from mine, so feel free to add or subtract:
- Up-to-date wills, trusts and codicils;
- Health care power of attorney;
- Living will declaration;
- General power of attorney/durable power of attorney;
- Vehicle, boat, motorcycle titles;
- Property deeds;
- Military records;
- Insurance policies;
- Retirement (401 (k) , pensions)/checking/savings accounts/saving bonds, stock certificates, brokerage accounts;
- Tax returns;
- Marriage, divorce, birth, death, adoption certificates, pre-nuptial agreements;
- Social Security card;
- Safe deposit boxes (location and keys);
- Important letters
- End-of-life instructions on funerals and other matters
- Organ donation card; and
- Information on your physicians, attorneys, and other professionals who have helped you manage your life.
Each time you tell yourself, “I’ll get around to finding and organizing these documents later,” think of my mother’s old black pocketbook. Also, consider the horror stories you’ve heard about greedy people who want items you own and create conflicts in the family, conflicts that never seem to get resolved.
Finally, know that hospitals are still using those old cotton gowns that tie in the back and allow anyone who’s looking to see your posterior. Have a robe handy in case you might need it.
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