Got a note from a reader here after an unfortunate event happened at her work, and thought it was a great way to introduce a topic many of us don’t enjoy dealing with (and rightfully so ;)).
The timing was pretty impeccable too, as my father has once again asked me if I’ve filled out all the info from this book he keeps recommending to me and my siblings and I’m running out of excuses!
Here’s what she emailed me (names have been changed):
Someone from our branch died very suddenly and unexpectedly over the weekend. Some other branch members were apparently talking earlier today and the topic of Legacy Binders came up, see below. I immediately thought of you and your far-reaching blog.
A few of us were talking this morning about Carl and how quick things can happen.
What I saw my mom go through when my dad passed and how she struggled to find accounts and know where to turn, really wanted me to make it easier on Julia and the kids if anything were to happen to me, or if something were to happen to both Julia and I, and someone outside the family were to take care of the kids. This could be made for a wife, kids, or whoever. A few were interested what I had in it, so I’ll send out to the whole team.
Documents I placed in a binder for her to access:
- Benefits info, which includes survivor benefits
- Social Security Statement (downloaded from website)
- Any Life Insurance Statements (Term, whole, military, through work, etc.)
- Other insurance docs (health/medical/dental, umbrella, home, car, personal property, etc.)
- Investment docs (IRA, 401k, mutual funds, stocks, etc.)
- Mortgage Statement /rental info
- Banking and credit card info
- Will, trust, etc.
- 529 college fund
- Recurring bills (electric, cable, trash, water, etc.)
- Usernames and passwords for any accounts/websites she may need to access
- Soldiers note (some don’t like to think about writing a letter to a loved one, to be discovered later)
My goal is to update this info yearly. Hope I’m thinking of everything, but if you see anything missing, please let me know.
She then sent a follow up from another colleague who chimed in:
If possible, add something that proves your legal relationship to the deceased, marriage license for spouse, POA for other. Without that you may be delayed in gaining access to accounts or even being able to speak with anyone concerning the matter. You will often have to wait until a death certificate is issued. If the issuance of that is delayed, you won’t be able to get much done in any event. When the death is under unusual circumstances, the ME may not issue a certificate of death for 6-8 weeks. You’re stuck in that circumstance.
My step son faced that when her father died unexpectedly one day on vacation.
And my brother and I just did this for my father when his advanced age caught up with him. Him and my mother hid or destroyed all important documents. It took a concerted search and the help of others to reconstruct his affairs.
SUCH a good idea, isn’t it? Putting everything in one main place for whoever (and whenever) they need it? As I’ve already let on, I don’t technically have a Legacy Binder like this yet, but I have started a Google doc that’s shared with my wife which contains a gaggle of important data. It doesn’t have account numbers or passwords or any sensitive info like that in it (scary to put online!), but it would help immensely in the tragic loss of yours truly.
Here’s what’s in there:
- Notes on all the bank accounts we have, and where they’re located
- Notes on all the investment accounts we have, and where they’re located
- Notes on all insurance/utilities/car loan stuff, etc, and where they’re located
- Notes on all my blog and business account stuff, and where they’re located (you guys do want to be notified if something happens to me, right? ;))
- And a handful of other random, but helpful, pieces of information that’s important to the running or maintaining of our household
I also keep sticky notes in our safe that houses all the logins and passwords of the important accounts/documents too – although probably good to upgrade them at some point ;)
Our safe also houses a mess of other important items as well: birth certificates, passports, checkbooks, back up hard drives, and even my nifty coin collection along with $500 in cash (never know when you need to flee in the middle of the night, right?)
So while we don’t have a binder, per se, we do have a spreadsheet/safe combo going on that will get you 80% of what’s needed in an unfortunate event. Which I think should win me some award, right?
Another trick we do is to house as many accounts under one roof as possible. For example, we have all our banking/insurance/credit card accounts with USAA – our favorite bank EVER – and then all our investment accounts with Vanguard – our favorite investment company EVER. Those two alone account for 90% of our accounts, (and 99% of our money!), both of which my wife has direct access to.
I know my dad’s still right in that this is just the tip of the iceberg with life/legacy stuff (“You don’t know, what you don’t know! That book forces you to think about all kinds of situations!”), but hey pops – one step at a time :)
Anyways, hopefully this is a good reminder for you, too, to start putting some things together if you haven’t already. If the Legacy Binder idea is too daunting for you, start by jotting down notes in a spreadsheet somewhere to get the main stuff down real fast, and then look to fill in the rest later.
JUST MAKE SURE TO TELL SOMEONE ABOUT IT!!
It doesn’t do anyone a lick of good if they can’t find it, or even know it exists. If it helps, I can also give your number to my father to start
pestering motivating you instead, if you’re looking for some accountability ;) He is early retired now you know, and has plenty of time to help out. Might even hook you up with some free Pabst!
Thanks for the great post idea, dearest reader, and for forcing us to think about all this stuff… Not fun, but certainly important!!
Now to go update those stickies…
UPDATE: Recently came across this free PDF for putting all your stuff together in one spot too – could prove quite helpful –>”The Big Book of Everything” (links to article about it where you can download it)
UPDATE II: A blogger friend just came out with this PDF too for legacy binders!! It does cost money ($29) but it’s pretty bad a$$… You can take a peek at it here when we named it our Resource of The Month: The ICE Binder (“In Case of Emergency”)