Rick Welch: Dollars and $ense

Be Ready……for Anything

The best time to prepare for life’s unexpected events is to do so before those events play havoc with your own life or the lives of those around you. Taking a few minutes now to organize your life can pay real benefits in time of personal or family crisis.  One way of organizing your life may be the creation of a Readiness Kit which collects, files and organizes in one place all the papers which collectively provide a picture of our life.  In preparing your own Readiness Kit, start out by writing a checklist that divides the material into three categories: Personal Identification, Legal and Financial Information, and Medical Information.

Personal Identification is a good place to start our Kit as this information identifies who we are. Most items in this category need little in the way of explanation – let common sense be your guide. Examples of identification documents are a driver’s license, birth certificate, marriage license, social security card, passport and military discharge records. Make a copy of each document (for each family member) and keep in a secure place.   

A will is a legal document in which one declares how certain matters, like property disposition and beneficiary care, will be handled after the death of the person who executes it.  Wills are not just for seniors.  All working age adults should prepare or have prepared a will and then get in the habit of revising it every five years or as the circumstances of their life may change sooner. A durable power of attorney will enable a loved one to make decisions (financial, business or tax affairs) on your behalf in times when you are incapacitated and not able to make such decisions on your own.  Home ownership documentation (like a deed), together with any recent appraisals, copies of homeowner insurance policies and mortgage information will provide a good picture of real assets owned. Financial information includes bank records, statements for investment or retirement accounts and income source information (pay stubs, social security benefits, veterans benefits, alimony are all examples).  Make sure to include in your Kit a copy of any life insurance policies and agent contact information.

If you or a family member have been hospitalized recently then you should be familiar with the purpose and importance of having a living will and health care power of attorney. A living will documents your wishes in the event that you suffer an injury or illness which results in a terminal condition or persistent vegetative state.  With a health care power of attorney you appoint someone as your health care representative to make medical and health care decisions on your behalf and to access and obtain any and all medical records and health information, the latter permission provided for under the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act or HIPAA.  If you take just one initial step upon reading this article, we hope it is to prepare your own living will and health care power of attorney. Other important medical records include health insurance cards, Medicare cards, lists of important medicines and medical supplies and any disabilities documentation.

Preparing a Readiness Kit is a good way to ensure that your loved ones (or you) can focus on the urgent matter at hand. Taking just a few moments now will be a big help to all concerned when the unexpected future crisis does occur. Keep records in a fire proof safe hidden from view within your home. Make a second copy and give it to a trusted relative or friend outside of your immediate family.

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