Help your family by getting organized. I undertook this exercise a few years back with my husband, creating the “Emergency Binder.”
The Emergency Binder contains everything my spouse and I would, could or should ever need in the event either one of us became incapacitated or passed away. The goal is to make it easy for a surviving spouse or a personal representative to locate all of your assets, pay the bills and otherwise deal with any financial or health issues that may arise.
Here is a (non-exhaustive) list of items that should be included in your Emergency Binder:
- Utility or vender information
- Bank account information
- Insurance policies
- Investment and retirement accounts
- Social security numbers
- Car title(s)
- Deed to the house
- Other real estate documentation
- Estate planning documents, including wills, trusts, health care directives and powers of attorney
- Names and contact information for any professionals, maintenance personnel or others you call upon during the course of the year
- Photos of each room in the house documenting the room’s contents
- Any other asset or liability information and/or important documents, contact information, etc., pertinent to your life
For each of the items listed, account numbers, payment due dates, contact numbers and online account access information should be included.
By compiling all of these items into a central location, you can ease a significant amount of stress and anxiety for loved ones when such information is needed. You also ensure that assets are not overlooked and bills are promptly paid.
Admittedly, the exercise of collecting and organizing this information is not quick or easy. However, the first time is the worst. Once you establish your Emergency Binder, updating annually is a breeze. Once created, it is important to safeguard your Emergency Binder. Your Emergency Binder should be housed in a fire-proof safe. In addition to your spouse, a close friend or a family member needs to know the location of the Emergency Binder and how to access it in case of emergency.
In sum, get organized! For the sake of your loved ones, create your own Emergency Binder.