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Elder Law and Estate Planning Blog - Lancaster, PA

Thursday, January 17, 2013

The Death/Disability Book

Guess what, we all have a 100% chance of dying.  It's not the most pleasant topic, but it's bound to happen at some point.  Now, what about become disabled, what's the probability of that?  At the age of 25, a person has an 18 percent chance of being disabled.  Those over 85 have a 50% chance of having some type of dementia.  What happens if you become disabled?  Will your loved ones be left in the dark, without critical information that they don't know but should have?

That's where the idea of a Death/Disability Book comes into play.  We originally read about it in an article in the Pittsburgh Post Gazette and thought that it was worthy of sharing.  So grab yourself a colorful 2 inch and start looking for the following information to include!

Emergency Information

  • Emergency Contacts - whoever you want to be contacted in case of an emergency.  Their names, addresses, phone numbers and email addresses.  You can also list your professional advisors hear (financial planner, accountant, lawyer, etc).
  • Health Information - your healthcare providers, copies of health insurance information and cards, all your medications, your medical history

Estate Information

  • Will - the original will is the most important document to keep on hand because it dictates how your assets will be distributed.  If your family can't find the original document, your assets may not go where you want them.
  • Healthcare and Financial Power of Attorney - these documents give someone else (your agents) permission to make healthcare and money decisions for you should you become incapacitated.
  • Trust Documents - if you set up a trust, these must be included.
  • Funeral Arrangements - have you made them?  It makes it a lot easier on your family members if it's done in advance, just make sure they know where to find the relevant information to carry out your wishes.
  • A letter of instruction - while not vital, if you have any other requests or other information that family members should know, you can write a letter telling them

Financial Information

  • Taxes - do you keep a copy of last years' tax returns?  Show where these are located to make it easier to reconstruct your financial affairs.
  • Insurance Policies - a summary list of all your policies, including auto, disability, homeowners, umbrella coverage, life, and long-term care.  Include the name of the carrier and contact information for the agents.
  • Bank Information - again, have a summary of all of your accounts, with the institutions, types of accounts, account numbers, owners, safe deposit box numbers and keys included
  • Credit Cards - note the account numbers and providers.  You can also include any membership cards to a specific store.
  • Stock and Bonds - these are important assets even if they seem small!

Miscellaneous Items

  • Other documents - you should consider including copies of your marriage license, birth certificate, passport, and social security card
  • Passwords - a list of passwords and their corresponding accounts is crucial, especially in today's age with accounts for everything and a variety of requirements for the passwords
  • Personal Effects - do you have any collectible items?  Put a list of them in this binder.  If you want, you can even include pictures of them, either in the binder or in another place that someone knows about.
  • Anything else - this is your binder, include in it anything else you might think is necessary!!

Once you've created this binder, make sure a trusted individual knows where it is.  And while it does seem to be a daunting task,  imagine what the job would be like if someone else had to find all this information.  As with any major project, take it in bits and pieces over a defined period of time to lighten the load.  Anything you do, even if it isn't as exhaustive as this, will be helpful.  And your family will be eternally grateful for all the help you've given them.

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