Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Do You Have an Emergency Plan? If Not, Make One Today.

This is not a food-related entry, but since it's important, I'd like to share this with you.

My mom recently had a stroke.

An event like this puts in sharp relief that which I know I have taken for granted: healthy, productive parents who don't seem to age and who can manage their own affairs. Family relationships that I don't pursue on a regular basis because I assume they will always be there. Things I choose not to know because I'm a kid and my parents are the parents.

With my mom's stroke, this bubble has burst. Life is ephemeral. Health is fleeting. Relationships are transitory.

And I'm not just talking about my parents. I'm talking about myself too. Death and disability are equal opportunity employers.

Philosophizing aside, there are some very real impacts to living a life that is decades old, no matter how ephemeral it is. Wordly entanglements abound -- bills to be paid, vital family records to be located, arrangements (funeral, disability, assisted living, hospice) to be made, wishes to be known, business information to be disclosed, wills to be executed.

We owe it to our loved ones to help them help us when the time comes.

Make an emergency list and tell your loved ones where everything is.

Parents, there is no need to feel you have to tell all your financial secrets, but you should tell your children the basics so they know where to look in case of emergency. Better yet, tell several people, so you're covered in case things gets lost. And perhaps keep a separate file cabinet that has all the vital records in one place, so loved ones don't have to sift through files and files, all seemingly of the same importance.

And if you're the main record keeper/bill payer, tell your spouse where everything is and how bills are paid. There are plenty of cases where the unknowing spouse has lost his or her home or insurance has lapsed because he/she didn't know that there was a mortgage or a premium to be paid.

I've put together this list for my parents, which I want to share with you in case it's helpful. I also made a similar list for my affairs which I gave and will give again to three of my relatives.

Also, get a durable power of attorney and perhaps put a child or trusted relative on your bank account, so they can write checks for you without a hassle.

EMERGENCY LIST IN CASE OF DEATH OR DISABILITYCONTACT NAMES
- Attorney(s) (attorney should keep copies of will, trusts, living will, etc.)
- Accountant(s)
- Doctors
- Insurance agent(s)

LIST OF MEDICAL PRESCRIPTIONS

LOCATION OF ADDRESS BOOK

WILL

LIVING WILL

LIVING TRUST (if applicable)

DURABLE POWER OF ATTORNEY (Health care proxy and financial matters proxy)

INSURANCE POLICIES (health, life, auto, homeowner, disability)

TAX RETURNS

BANK AND BROKERAGE ACCOUNT NAMES AND NUMBERS AND HOW THESE ACCOUNTS ARE USED (e.g., which one is to pay bills, etc.)

RETIREMENT ACCOUNTS

OUTSTANDING DEBTS AND BILLS THAT NEED TO BE PAID

TITLES FOR HOUSES/CARS

FAMILY RECORDS (Birth, Marriage, Death, Immigration, Passports, Social Security Cards)

KEYS TO DIFFERENT PROPERTIES

CODES/KEYS TO SAFE AND SAFETY DEPOSIT BOXES AND THEIR LOCATIONS

GOOD JEWELRY

FAMILY HEIRLOOMS

FUNERAL/BURIAL WISHES

If you own a business or businesses, you should also put together a similar list for that part of your life.

By the way, my mom is virtually fully recovered. She is lucky. We are lucky. We still have the chance to ask her the above, so we can be of help when the time comes.



2 comments:

MaRyA said...

thank God your mom is okay. Yeah Ive been thinking this too for a long time now. I am the eldest in the family and I realize my parents wont be there forever and neither are we. I guess I just put it in the back of my mind and I have been crossing my fingers that nothing bad will ever happen. Wishful thinking.

Mike said...

I am glad to hear that your Mom is doing good. Your post is a great reminder to everyone. A few years ago I took control of what my Dad calls his "death book". Although it is a grim task, it is a necessary mission as we cross that line with our parent's from care receiver to care giver.