With the passing of April 15th, and the beautiful weather finally rolling in, I am suddenly motivated to do some spring cleaning. Now, if you know me, you know how rare it is for me to be motivated to actually clean. But, I have found that this time of year is an excellent time not just to air out the sheets and clean the carpets, but to also go through legal and financial documents to make sure everything is in order.
This type of spring cleaning is not about scrubbing the nooks and crannies of the house, but rather about making sure that your loved ones have the information and documents they need to take care of you, should something happen. The idea is to gather your key documents and information in one accessible place so that your trusted family members and friends have all the information they need to take care of you in the event of an emergency. It can take months for your bills and bank statements to trickle in, especially if they are only produced quarterly or semi-annually. In some cases, they may never come to the house, especially if you have selected to go paperless.
In this situation, it is vital 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. A delay of weeks or months could cause serious problems for you, especially if it is the difference in paying your mortgage. In the next few articles, I’ll go through the types of documents and information you should gather.
Accessibility to this information is key. It does no good to collect these documents and information if your loved ones cannot find them. The worst place to store this kind of information is in a safety deposit box or safe that your loved ones do not have access to. If your loved one is not named as an owner of a safety deposit box, for example, then it will take a court order to enter the box.
Rather, I suggest compiling the information into a three ring binder, or file folders, and keeping them in a safe place that your loved ones are aware of. Perhaps that is the “evacuation” box in the closet, or the fancy binder that sits on the mantle, or the dedicated desk drawer in your home office. What “accessible” means to you and your family is very unique and personal; just make sure that your trusted family members or friends know where to find the information.