Are You Prepared for an Emergency?
My mom, who’s in her 70s and in great health, lives in New Jersey. Like many East Coast residents, she was hit hard by the recent one-two punch of Hurricane Sandy followed by a Nor’easter blizzard. Fortunately, she’s also well prepared not only for weather woes, but also for healthcare emergencies.
Stuck to her refrigerator is a plastic pouch that contains several important documents, including a list of emergency contacts, basic medical information and her living will. Known as a File of Life, this pouch contains a lot of information for any emergency responders who might be called to the house. It’s handy and easy to find, and if you’re a senior or you have loved ones who are older, you might have one or have seen one at other people’s houses.
But it made think: Am I prepared if an emergency strikes?
Even though I’m in my 40s, I could get hit by a car tomorrow. In this digital day and age, I do everything electronically. If I were incapacitated, would my family know where I bank and what bills need to be paid? Could they access my email to update my friends and clients? Since my computer and individual accounts are password protected, it would be tough for someone to quickly access the information without my help.
Things to Consider
Right now, while you’re thinking about it, sit down with someone close to you and give them a roadmap to your life. If you’d prefer, write down the details, seal it in an envelope and give it to someone you trust or put it somewhere that it can be easily found.
Information you want to share includes:
- Where do you keep your last will and testament, power of attorney, living will and other key legal documents?
- Where do you bank? What are your account numbers? If you also have brokerage or retirement accounts, include that information, too.
- What bills need to be paid each month?
- Do you have a mortgage? Car loan? Student debt? Other loans that must be paid regularly?
- If you own your car or home outright, where do you keep the title?
- Do you have a life insurance policy? Where is it kept? What about other key insurance policies, such as health, auto and home?
- Do you have a safety deposit box? Where is it? And where’s the key? If you have offsite storage units, where are they and how can they be accessed?
- What’s the contact information for your lawyer, accountant, doctor and other key professionals?
- What is the password to your computer? To your key accounts, such as bank, credit card company, email, Facebook, etc.?
- Who should be notified if something serious happens to you and you’re unable to communicate, or if you die?
- If you have pets, when and how much do they eat? Who could care for them in an emergency?
- What other essential pieces of information would someone need if you died or were incapacitated and unable to communicate?
Now, obviously you want some of this information to be a little more difficult to crack. I wouldn’t want someone to break into my house and find a note that says, “Read me,” which explains how to access my computer and where my valuables are hidden. Perhaps you email the essentials to a couple people you trust, then tell them where in your home they can find other key pieces of information.
Whether you’re rich or poor, single or married, old or young, it’s never too soon to think about estate-planning issues. Every American adult should, at minimum, have a last will and testament, power of attorney and living will (including healthcare power of attorney).
Are your estate plans in order? If they aren’t, resolve to speak to an estate-planning attorney as soon as possible, draw up the necessary legal documents and then share relevant information with your loved ones.