Last time, I talked about using spring cleaning to organize your legal and financial documents to make sure that they are accessible to your trusted family members and friends. This is an excellent time of year to gather certain documents and information in one place so your loved ones have the information they need in order to take care of you, pay your bills, and make informed decisions about your care. Here’s a list of documents or information your loved one should have if you are alive, but not well:
- Identifying Information: You should keep a copy of your birth certificate, driver’s license, social security card, and any military discharge paperwork (i.e. your DD-214) together. Yes, this is sensitive information. However, it is also vital information that your loved one or caregiver will need in order to fill out forms and access medical care, rehabilitation placement, or government benefits (such as Medicare, Medicaid, or V.A. benefits).
- Health Care Information: You should have a copy of your health insurance cards (Medicare, supplements, prescription drug coverage), a Health Care Savings Account (HSA) bank statement, disability or long-term care insurance policy summary, a list of prescription medications, and a list of your doctors with contact information. In the event of an emergency, knowing what medications you are on and who your doctors is vital to determining proper treatment. Additionally, if you are incapacitated for a longer period of time, knowing if you have any savings or insurance that can cover health care and rehabilitation costs is key to ensuring a course of treatment and therapy.
- Most Recent Tax Returns with Year End Statements, 1099s and W-2s: When you are incapacitated or disabled, cash flow is king. Your last tax return and the statements that support it act as a guidepost for your loved one. They can show where your sources of income and investments are. This is key to ensuring that your income and assets are applied to pay your bills.
- Key Contact Information: Do not expect your love one to call everyone under the sun, but they should have the name, phone number, and contact information for a few other people who are important to you. What I recommend is that you give them the name of 3-5 people to call, and these 3-5 people call everyone else – like the top of a phone tree. Your successor needs to focus on caring for you, not calling 20 people and giving them updates.
- Powers of Attorney: Powers of attorney are legal documents that designate another person to act for you when you cannot act. They can give another person the ability to manage your finances, and/or to make medical decisions for you. They give your loved one the legal ability to access your bank accounts, pay your bills, get medical information, and make treatment decisions. Without these documents a court-ordered guardianship may be needed to enable your loved one to take care of you.
If something happened to you, and you are alive but not well, your loved one’s access to your important documents and information can help them immediately get you the care that you need. While you are doing your spring cleaning this month, take a few minutes to gather these things and put them in an accessible place.