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You Are Here: Home - Newsletters - "Get Organized" - Article

     It Can Happen to You

You see it every day on the news. You get up and turn the television on in the morning and learn that while you were sleeping, others were involved in accidents that caused their DEATH. As one friend put it, "You watch the news and think that somehow your family is protected from these tragedies. After all, these people don't live in your neighborhood. They come from a different social class. They were in the wrong place at the wrong time." It wasn't until his 21 year-old sister was killed in a skiing accident that he realized that all of his JUSTIFICATIONS were wrong. Your family most certainly can be affected.

Donna had asked her husband to write some information down for her about their personal affairs before his flight to the Middle East several years ago. He scratched some things out on the back of an envelope and told her she was being silly. He returned from that trip, but a few short months later was killed by a drunk driver. At least Donna had something to start with, but she wasn't prepared for all of the QUESTIONS the funeral home fired at her. She knew what bank accounts they had, and had helped with paying the bills over the years, but what about funeral arrangements? Did he want to be buried in Louisiana with his parents, or here in Texas where she and her family lived? Cremation or burial? What about the obituary for the newspaper? Did she have all of the accurate information they needed to write it? Her emotions were raw as she tried to deal with the reality of it all. Was this all just a bad dream that would soon end? She just wanted to go home and grieve, but there were too many things to THINK about.

Ask yourself how you would answer the following questions if your spouse or another loved one died suddenly:
  • How long will it take to settle the estate?
  • Will I have enough cash to live on until then?
  • Will the insurance come before they foreclose on the house?
  • Where is the real copy of the will?
  • How can I prove stock ownership?
  • Do I know about all bank accounts and insurance policies?
  • How do I collect social security?
  • Whose advice can I trust?
If you donít know the answers to these questions, now is a good time for you to start thinking about them. What are some things you can do to be better PREPARED for these situations?

Talk to your spouse (and donít forget your parents) and explain the IMPORTANCE of working together to put this information in order now. Accidents arenít something we schedule!

Gather important PAPERS and organize them in a way that makes sense to you. You might store them in a file system, a binder, or using another method. It matters less how you store them than the fact that you have these documents together within easy reach. Include:
  • birth certificates
  • pre-paid funeral arrangements
  • military records
  • current bank and credit card statements
  • wills
  • safe deposit info (bank, box number, signers, contents)
  • employment information
  • savings plans
  • retirement accounts
  • stock certificates
  • loan agreements
  • automobile titles
  • health and life insurance

Make copies of these documents and file the ORIGINALS in a safe place. A fireproof safe at home is recommended so you'll have access to them on the weekend. You might even consider scanning them and saving them to a disk. Then put the copies in a separate safe place -- your attorney's office, with a relative, at work, etc. If something happens to one set, you have another as a BACKUP.

Keep the information CURRENT and up to date. Decide to go through these records at least annually to make sure the information hasn't changed. Take this opportunity to DISCARD outdated information.

Make sure someone in your family, and a trusted family friend, knows WHERE this information is stored so it can be retrieved at a moment's notice. The fireproof box is a good place to keep it along with your original documents, but be sure to put it back each time you update the information.

You are doing your family a disservice if you don't prepare this information for them while you're able. It doesnít make sense to provide for them throughout your life, only to leave them STRUGGLING when they need your guidance more than ever.


Copyright 2005 Copyright 2005 by Joyce Moseley Pierce. Visit www.emersonpublications.com to read more of Joyce's stories, to subscribe to the Family First newsletter, or to request information about working at home. This site is dedicated to helping others create family unity.

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