With children starting school, this is a good time of year to evaluate your financial and medical records. There are two aspects to organizing your financial records. The first is to have the information readily available in case of an emergency—a natural disaster or a family crisis. The second is to help you and your family be prepared in case of your death or serious injury. So this month, check to make sure your medical records are complete and up-to-date and that your financial records are organized.with proper planning and communicate those plans to family members.
Start with a Portable Medical Record
Everyone in the family should have a portable medical record. This can be a simple cardthat lists medical conditions, medications you are taking, medical and food allergies, doctor’s name(s), insurance information and other important contact information. Or you can put your information on a flash drive in the form of a medical alert bracelet, necklace, keychain fob or card. Having all this
information with you at all times could mean the difference between life or death during a medical emergency.There is also a phone app which allows you to have more detailed information at your disposal. However this would not be too helpful if you were unconscious or unable to give the phone app information to emergency responders.
No matter how you choose to do this, a PMR can save your life, especially if you have a serious medical condition or allergies to medicines. It will also be invaluable if there is a disaster that forces you from your home and you want need get medical care outside of your usual healthcare facility.per planning and communicate those plans to family members.
Your health records should include a Living Will and end of life plans. These will prove especially important if you are in an accident that prevents you from directing your medical care, especially if you do not want heroic means employed in case of serious injury.
A year ago my husband’s family began the complicated and emotionally fraught task of finding appropriate care for their terminally ill father. After his death, they were faced with a host of decisions of how to arrange finances to ensure the best care for his mother. Fortunately, many
of these decisions were made easier because his parents had both a living will (for health care directives) and a will. But during this process we also discovered that there were many holes in the plans that his parents had drawn up.
So even if you already have a living will, advanced health care directives and/or wills in place, it is always a good idea to review these documents, look for any inadequacies and update as needed. Discuss your plans with your children to seek their input and make sure they understand your plans.
Picture yourself after a fire or flood. What kind of financial records would you want to be able to access? This is the kind of thing that you should have stored some place safe, such as a safe deposit box. You could also store scanned copies on a thumb drive or CD. These records should include:
- Bank accounts—account numbers and contact information for your bank(s)
- Savings and retirement accounts—account numbers and contact information for all savings and retirement accounts
- Insurance policies—policy numbers, name(s) of agents and contact information for the companies
- Copies of deeds
- Registration information on all vehicles
- Records and professional assessments of other valuable property—jewelry, valuable collections or heirlooms
- Birth certificates, passports and/or naturalization papers
- A copy of your will
A will is another important component of your financial records. Without a will your property will be disposed of by statute rather than according to your wishes. This becomes a critical issue if you have minor children. A will lets you direct the guardianship of your children and how they will be cared for until they are grown.
Go With a Pro
Many would have us believe that we can do everything online—from making a will to investing for retirement. For a lot of things, this may be true. But there are some things that simply should not be done without professional advice. If you have minor children, assets from a previous marriage, numerous or complex investments and assets, you should not rely on a fill-in-the-blank will. Consult a legal expert to ensure you are not overlooking anything important.
Last But Not Least
You should also have an inventory of important or valuable personal belongings. Both the Red Cross and FEMA have a lot of good information on disasters and financial planning. I really encourage you to download and read the Red Cross’ booklet Disasters and Financial Planning. It is filled with excellent information. Another invaluable resource is FEMA’s Emergency Financial First Aid Kit.
Give your family the peace of mind that comes with proper planning and communicate those plans to family members.