Why does documentation matter?

Two Different Stories for Ken and Noreen

Ken has been married for 22 years to Joanne. He has been the head of the household, the worker outside the home and the father to 3 children, Mary who is 19 and in college, Jimmy who is 15 and Ellen who is 11. Ken has always paid the bills and handled the online checking account and the savings and investments for the future. Then Ken was hurt in a car wreck on the way to work, was seriously injured and was in a medically induced coma for three weeks. Then four weeks of rehabilitation began, leaving all the parenting and household responsibilities on Joanne’s unprepared shoulders.

Noreen is 73 and very independent.  She lives in a small condominium so she has no yard or outside maintenance; she just takes care of the interior and she is easily capable of doing that. She handles her own finances, transportation and life. But then Noreen tripped and fell, breaking her hip. After surgery, a four-week stay at a rehab facility is required. Her only daughter Anne lives over 100 miles away.

Life requires you to pray for the best but prepare for the worst. After all, that’s why you have insurance; not because you are hoping for a fire or a burglar, but because you are preparing for the worst, to make the worst a more bearable, survivable event.

How?

Noreen had all of her important papers and information together in an organized fashion, allowing Anne to step right in and take over her mother’s finances and keep her bills paid on time. In fact, with the benefit of online  checking, Anne was able to get most of her mother’s bills to be sent electronically to her and she paid the bills online, allowing her to maintain her mother’s finances up-to-date.

You can guess the next part. 

Joanne knows nothing about the family finances. The bills come in and she is overwhelmed. Ken had never thought about the worst-case possibilities of life. He had life “under control,” so there was no need to think about that kind of “stuff.”

What are the important papers and information?

Important Documents

Personal Information

Professionals

Prescription Drug List

Estate

Insurance

Health

Checking and Savings Accounts

Personal Investments and Accounts

Retirement Investment and Accounts

Annuities

Personal Property

Debts Websites and Passwords

Emergency Contacts

These are the areas a loved one will need to know about to step into the hard role of taking over a life that is on hold or that has tragically ended.

It’s time to get started.  But where do you start? Right here.

The Start of Getting Your Affairs in Order

  • First, read this entire form, beginning to end.
  • Gather your important papers and copies of legal documents.
  • Store those documents and your notes in one secure location. You can set up a file and put everything in a fireproof safe (many of the resulting documents are important originals).  For the sake of security and duplication, you may wish to scan the documents and store them electronically on a flash or thumb drive also stored in the fire proof safe and in a secure, password-protected computer file. If your papers are in a bank safe deposit box, keep copies in a file at home and mark each copy with a note stating where the originals are.
  • Tell a trusted family member or friend where you put all your important papers. You don’t need to tell this friend or family member about your financial plan, accumulated wealth or assets or personal affairs, but someone should know where you keep your papers in case of an emergency. If you don’t have a relative or friend you trust, ask your financial adviser or pastor to help.
  • You should give permission for your doctor to speak with your Power of Attorney and Health Care Surrogate as needed. Make a note to do this on your next visit or check-up. There may be questions about a bill, a health insurance claim, a course of treatment or your medical history. Without your consent, your caregiver may not be able to get important information that may assist in diagnosis or care and you may not be able to get updates and reports from the doctor. You can give your okay in advance to Medicare, a credit card company, your bank, or your doctor. You may need to sign and return a waiver or consent, but you will never know unless you ask. So ask!
  • Check each year to see if there are any new document or information to add.

Summary

  • As soon as possible but especially before a serious illness, help yourself get the end-of-life care you want.
  • Make sure your current end-of-life documents reflect your wishes.
  • If you do not have a Living Will or a Health Care Surrogate Designation, act now to protect yourself against arbitrary decisions by strangers.
  • Give yourself as much peace of mind as you can have in an uncertain world.

Living through the sickness and death of a loved one – and helping your loved ones through your own serious illness with as little difficulty as possible – requires careful advance planning. While these are not popular topics for discussion, planning for end-of-life issues now is very helpful to those who love and care for you. It also helps make sure that they will know and respect your wishes.

Here are some of the many questions you should be asking yourself throughout this process as you plan for the spiritual, legal, financial, health and other issues you and your family will face at the end of life.

CRITICAL QUESTIONS

Eternity

  • Eternity is a long time, a lot longer than the days left to you.
  • God wants a personal relationship with you through His Son Jesus Christ. John 3:16.
  • God has set out His heart in the Bible.
  • It makes little sense to plan for our short life and ignore our inevitable long eternity.
  • Study the Bible, God’s Word to us, to understand His message to us, to you!
  • Are you at peace with family and friends?
  • Is there anyone you need to forgive?
  • Is there anyone from whom you should seek forgiveness?
  • Are there any old wounds or hurts to address, apologies to make or doors to open?
  • Are you ready?

Your health care

  • Who will make health care choices for you if you were not able to do so?
  • Have you discussed end-of-life care issues with your primary care physician?
  • What treatments would you want to have if you were very ill?
  • Are there any treatments you would not accept?
  • If you were terminally ill, would you want to be resuscitated if you stop breathing or your heart stops? How may times?
  • Where do you want to be at the end of your life; at home, in a hospital or somewhere else, such as a hospice?
  • Have you written advance directives that tell your wishes for health care and give someone who is trusted the power to make care choices and hard decisions for you if you are unable?
  • Do you have a living will spelling out your wishes for end-of-life health care?
  • Have you considered organ donation?

Your finances

  • Have you given someone a durable power of attorney to pay bills and make financial or business decisions on your behalf if you are unable to do so?
  • Do you have an up-to-date list of all your significant assets and debts?
  • Have you photographed or videoed your home and your possessions for insurance verification and valuation?
  • Does the person you have chosen to make financial choices have ready access to your bank and investment accounts, your online accounts and your bills?
  • Does that person know where to find all your legal papers such as your birth certificate, will, trust, living will and advance directive?
  • Does that person have a copy of your safe deposit key or know the combination to your safe and know where to go and how to access them?
  • Are your assets titled the most advantageous way, so that they will be conveyed after your death in the way you wish?
  • Are enough of your assets set up to transfer on death?
  • Have you talked with a skilled estate planning lawyer to make sure of this?
  • Do beneficiaries of your pension(s), retirement accounts [such as 401(k)s and IRAs], Social Security and life insurance policies have the facts they need to claim their benefits?
  • If you own a business, do you have a plan for who will own and run it after your death?
  • Is there anything you can do to simplify your assets, reduce the burden on your loved ones and reduce or eliminate the cost of probate?

 Your family and estate

  • Is your will and/or trust up-to-date, reflecting your current wishes?
  • Does your estate plan take God into consideration – do you give to God?
  • Have you chosen a personal representative who is honest and able to deal with legal and financial matters?
  • Does this person have all the facts needed to settle your estate?
  • If you have minor children, have you chosen a guardian and discussed it with that person?
  • If you have a child with special needs, have you arranged for the necessary care after you’re gone?
  • Have you talked with a lawyer about setting up a living trust to avoid probate?
  • Have you made designations of special personal property bequests to your children and family such as rings, jewelry, furniture and family heirlooms and mementoes and have your children been advised and have they agreed about who gets those special bequests?

Your peace of mind

  • Have you indicated your preference for burial or cremation?
  • Have you paid for cremation or burial and does someone know where to find those papers?
  • Have you made plans for your funeral? If so, have you put your plans and preferences in writing?
  • Do you need to talk with a clergy member or counselor to get answers to questions about God and death?
  • Do you need someone to help you with spiritual concerns?
  • Have you considered what children or grandchildren may wish to learn about you?
  • Have you considered that you may have some life experiences or a testimony that you could leave for someone who needs to hear from you – even after you have passed away?

IMPORTANT DOCUMENTS

1.  Identification

Include in this section original/official birth certificates for each family member (or at least copies if the original is not obtainable), Social Security cards, adoption paperwork, copies of driver’s license, and passports. You may also want to include photocopies of your credit cards and debit cards.

2.  Marriage License

Include the original marriage license.

3.  Titles to Vehicles

Include titles for each vehicle (cars, motorcycles, boats, RVs, four-wheelers, planes, etc.) If titles are electronic, provide VIN# and description of the vehicle.

4.  Real Estate Deeds

Include home, condo, or other real estate deed(s). You will also want to include your mortgage paperwork and/or an apartment lease agreement if applicable. If not available, provide a full legal description for all real property.

5.  Tax Returns

Include your last three 1040 tax returns and all exhibits/attachments and schedules. Copies of your tax returns are necessary for obtaining financing or refinancing.

6.  Other Important Documents

Include military records, contracts, agreements, prenup/postnup agreements, divorce judgments, death certificates, outstanding loans to family members or friends, and any other important documents.

 

PERSONAL INFORMATION

  • Full legal name ______________________________________
  • Birth date and place of birth ____________________________
  • Social Security Number ________________________________
  • Residential Address ___________________________________
  • Home phone _________________________________________
  • Cell phone ___________________________________________
  • Citizenship ___________________________________________
  • Full names and addresses of spouse and children and all family members known

________________________________________________

________________________________________________

________________________________________________

________________________________________________

________________________________________________

________________________________________________

________________________________________________

  • Employers, addresses, phone numbers and dates of employment

________________________________________________

________________________________________________

________________________________________________

________________________________________________

  • Schools and educational accomplishments

________________________________________________

________________________________________________

________________________________________________

________________________________________________

  • Names and phone numbers of religious contacts

________________________________________________

________________________________________________

________________________________________________

  • Memberships in groups and awards received

________________________________________________

________________________________________________

________________________________________________

________________________________________________

  • Hobbies

________________________________________________

________________________________________________

________________________________________________

________________________________________________

 

PROFESSIONALS

Include information on the following professionals:

Attorney Name Primary Phone            Address

_____________________________________________________________

_____________________________________________________________

Notes: _____________________________________________________________

_____________________________________________________________

 

Accountant Name Primary Phone            Address

_____________________________________________________________

Notes: _____________________________________________________________

_____________________________________________________________

 

Tax Preparer Name Primary Phone            Address

_____________________________________________________________

Notes: _____________________________________________________________

_____________________________________________________________

 

Insurance Agent Name Primary Phone            Address 

_____________________________________________________________

Notes: _____________________________________________________________

_____________________________________________________________

 

Financial Advisor Name Primary Phone            Address

_____________________________________________________________

Notes: _____________________________________________________________

 

PRESCRIPTION DRUG LIST

Name________________________________________________________

Date of Birth___________________________

Primary Physician ______________________________________

Phone_______________________________________

Prescriptions                          Dosage                         Prescribing Doctor

_____________________________________________________________

_____________________________________________________________

_____________________________________________________________

_____________________________________________________________

_____________________________________________________________

_____________________________________________________________

_____________________________________________________________

_____________________________________________________________

 

Known Allergies

_____________________________________________________________

_____________________________________________________________

 

Important Medical History, Surgeries, Hospitalizations, Illnesses, etc.

_____________________________________________________________

_____________________________________________________________

_____________________________________________________________

_____________________________________________________________

_____________________________________________________________

_____________________________________________________________

_____________________________________________________________

_____________________________________________________________

 

ESTATE

1.  Durable Power of Attorney

Include a copy of your Durable Power of Attorney and associated paperwork. Include a clear statement of the location of your original Durable Power of Attorney.

2.  Will and/or Trust

Include a copy of your Will and/or Trust and associated paperwork. Include a clear statement of the location of your original will and/or trust

3.  Business Documents

Include a copy of any necessary business documents. This may include buy-sell agreements, partnerships, contracts, letter agreements, corporation information, key-man insurance policies, etc. Include a statement of the location of essential original business documents.

 

INSURANCE

1.  Life Insurance

Include all life insurance policy(ies) in this section.

2.  Disability Insurance

Include all disability insurance policy(ies) in this section.

3.  Long Term Care Insurance

Include any long term care insurance policy(ies) in this section.

4.  Homeowner’s Insurance

Include homeowner’s insurance policy(ies) in this section.

5.  Home and asset inventory

Make sure to include photos and/or a video recording of your home and personal property/assets. Photos will help you and your insurance adjuster determine the value of your possessions in case of a fire or loss of property.

6.  Other Insurance

Include any other insurance policy(ies). This may include auto or boat insurance, error and omission insurance, umbrella insurance, renter’s insurance, etc. If you have rental property, you may also want to include photos of the property and any necessary possessions.

 

POLICY LIST

Insurance Company         Owner(s)      Insuring what?         Policy Number

_____________________________________________________________

_____________________________________________________________

_____________________________________________________________

_____________________________________________________________

_____________________________________________________________

_____________________________________________________________

_____________________________________________________________

_____________________________________________________________

_____________________________________________________________

 

HEALTH

1.  Prescription Drug and Full Medication List

Enclosed is a form for listing prescription drugs. Please fill out one copy for each family member. Make sure to include both prescription drugs and over the counter medicines including vitamins. If a family member does not use any prescription drugs or over the counter medicines, please indicate on the form. Make sure to include all necessary information and provide details. The prescription drugs list is important because drugs may have adverse reactions to one another and may result in serious health complications.

2.  Living Will

Include a copy of your Living Will. State the location of the original Living Will.

3.  Health Care Surrogate Designation/Medical Power of Attorney

Include a copy of your Health Care Surrogate Designation/Medical Power of Attorney.

4.  Health Insurance

Include a copy of your health insurance policy and copies of your insurance/Medicare/Medicaid/Medigap/Medicare Supplement/Medicare Advantage cards (front & back). You may also store claim information in this section.

5. Emergency Contacts

Enclosed is a form for listing emergency contacts. Please list at least three important contacts. Make sure that you list at least one contact that you normally do not travel with.

6.  Organ Donation

Consider whether you may be able to give the gift of life or health to someone struggling with a serious illness. If not that, perhaps you could donate your organs or body to medical science.

 

 

CHECKING, SHARE DRAFT & SAVING ACCOUNTS

List all checking and saving accounts in banks, credit unions or other financial institutions, identifying the institution including the address of the brank (if any), the owner(s) of the account, the account type (saving, checking, etc.) and the account number. If you have a personal banker, identify the banker and provide contact information in the notes section.

Financial Institution         Owner(s)    Account Type            Account Number

_____________________________________________________________

_____________________________________________________________

_____________________________________________________________

_____________________________________________________________

_____________________________________________________________

_____________________________________________________________

_____________________________________________________________

_____________________________________________________________

_____________________________________________________________

_____________________________________________________________

 

Notes:

_____________________________________________________________

_____________________________________________________________

_____________________________________________________________

 

PERSONAL INVESTMENTS AND ACCOUNTS

1.  Financial Plan

Include a copy of your investment summary or financial plan if you have one. Your financial plan may display all or most of your investments along with the institutions where they are maintained. This will help a beneficiary or executor of your estate.

2.  Investment/Brokerage Accounts

Enclosed is a form for listing your investments, investment accounts, stocks, bonds, etc. Identify the financial institution, owner(s), type of investment and account number for each.

 

PERSONAL INVESTMENTS

Financial Institution        Owner(s)   Type of Investment     Account Number

_____________________________________________________________

_____________________________________________________________

_____________________________________________________________

_____________________________________________________________

_____________________________________________________________

_____________________________________________________________

_____________________________________________________________

_____________________________________________________________

_____________________________________________________________

_____________________________________________________________

_____________________________________________________________

_____________________________________________________________

 

Notes:

_____________________________________________________________

_____________________________________________________________

_____________________________________________________________

 

 

RETIREMENT INVESTMENTS

Please list your retirement investments, designating the financial institution, owner(s), type of investment, and account number. If you have a broker or financial advisor for any account, identify that person on the account and provide contact information in the notes section below.

Financial Institution     Owner(s)     Type of Investment      Account Number

_____________________________________________________________

_____________________________________________________________

_____________________________________________________________

_____________________________________________________________

_____________________________________________________________

_____________________________________________________________

_____________________________________________________________

_____________________________________________________________

_____________________________________________________________

_____________________________________________________________

_____________________________________________________________

_____________________________________________________________

_____________________________________________________________

 

Notes:
_____________________________________________________________

_____________________________________________________________

_____________________________________________________________

_____________________________________________________________

_____________________________________________________________

 

ANNUITIES

List your annuity investments. Please designate the financial institution, owner(s), type of investment, value and account number. State the location of the original policy applications and papers in notes below.

Financial           Owner(s)           Type of       Value         Account

Institution                              Investment                     Number 

 _________________________________________________Y/N_________

_________________________________________________Y/N_________

_________________________________________________Y/N_________

_________________________________________________Y/N_________

_________________________________________________Y/N_________

 

Notes:

_____________________________________________________________

_____________________________________________________________

_____________________________________________________________

_____________________________________________________________

_____________________________________________________________

_____________________________________________________________

_____________________________________________________________

_____________________________________________________________

_____________________________________________________________

_____________________________________________________________

_____________________________________________________________

_____________________________________________________________

 

PERSONAL PROPERTY

Description                 Owner(s)                     Location                 Value

 _____________________________________________________________

_____________________________________________________________

_____________________________________________________________

_____________________________________________________________

_____________________________________________________________

_____________________________________________________________

_____________________________________________________________

_____________________________________________________________

_____________________________________________________________

_____________________________________________________________

_____________________________________________________________

_____________________________________________________________

_____________________________________________________________

_____________________________________________________________

_____________________________________________________________

_____________________________________________________________

 

Notes:

_____________________________________________________________

_____________________________________________________________

_____________________________________________________________

_____________________________________________________________

_____________________________________________________________

_____________________________________________________________

_____________________________________________________________

_____________________________________________________________

_____________________________________________________________

 

DEBTS

List all creditors, including the full name of the creditor, the approximate balance owed, the account number together with all contact information to communicate with the creditor, state whether there is any security for the debt, and identify what type of account/debt, i.e. home mortgage, credit card, unsecured loan, etc. State the location of records and documents regarding the debt and all payments made.

 

Creditor      Amount       Account        Security      Credit Type

 Owed         Number 

_____________________________________________________________

_____________________________________________________________

_____________________________________________________________

_____________________________________________________________

_____________________________________________________________

_____________________________________________________________

_____________________________________________________________

_____________________________________________________________

_____________________________________________________________

_____________________________________________________________

_____________________________________________________________

_____________________________________________________________

_____________________________________________________________

_____________________________________________________________

 

Notes:

_____________________________________________________________

_____________________________________________________________

_____________________________________________________________

_____________________________________________________________

_____________________________________________________________

_____________________________________________________________

_____________________________________________________________

 

WEBSITES & PASSWORDS

Include all of the security login and password information for your important websites, especially those related to banking and finances.

 Web              Login            Password           Challenge        Challenge

Address                                                         Question          Answer

_____________________________________________________________

_____________________________________________________________

_____________________________________________________________

_____________________________________________________________

_____________________________________________________________

_____________________________________________________________

_____________________________________________________________

_____________________________________________________________

_____________________________________________________________

_____________________________________________________________

_____________________________________________________________

_____________________________________________________________

_____________________________________________________________

_____________________________________________________________

_____________________________________________________________

_____________________________________________________________

_____________________________________________________________

 

Notes:

_____________________________________________________________

___________________________________________________________________________

_____________________________________________________________

_____________________________________________________________

_____________________________________________________________

_____________________________________________________________

 

EMERGENCY CONTACTS

In case of an emergency, please notify:

Name                   Primary Phone        Alternative Phone          Relationship

_____________________________________________________________

Street and email address:

_____________________________________________________________

_____________________________________________________________

Name                   Primary Phone        Alternative Phone          Relationship

_____________________________________________________________

Street and email address:

_____________________________________________________________

_____________________________________________________________

Name                   Primary Phone        Alternative Phone          Relationship

_____________________________________________________________

Street and email address:

_____________________________________________________________

_____________________________________________________________

Name                   Primary Phone        Alternative Phone          Relationship

_____________________________________________________________

Street and email address:

_____________________________________________________________

_____________________________________________________________

Name                   Primary Phone        Alternative Phone          Relationship

_____________________________________________________________

Street and email address:

_____________________________________________________________

Provide at least three emergency contacts. Please include someone who you don’t usually travel with.

Notes may include an email address, a street address, or other helpful information you may not be able to provide in a time of crisis.

About the Author

John Campbell

John Campbell has retired from a 40-year legal practice as a trial attorney in Tampa. He has served in multiple volunteer roles at Idlewild Baptist Church in Lutz, Florida, where he met Jesus.  He began serving as the Executive Director of the Idlewild Foundation in 2016.  He has been married to the love of his life, Mona Puckett Campbell, since 1972.