IN CASE OF DEATH (the logistics of preparing for the worst)

Originally posted on August 22, 2009 at 5:40 PM

When my dad died, it was like a nightmare. Obviously, grief isn’t easy on anyone. But the stress… the stress is harder, actually. If you’re the primary decision-maker, which I was, and you don’t have a clue, which I didn’t, you can become so stressed that you don’t allow time for grief. That’s what happened to me.

My mom and I have been talking about this. Anyone can die at any time. It’s not always expected. Kids can die. Parents can die. Spouses can die. If you want to help your loved ones by relieving the stress (to make room for grief), do this now. I have.

Make a word document on your computer and print out a copy. Label it “IN CASE OF DEATH.” Put the digital file in the large my documents folder and the hardcopy in its own file in your filing cabinet labeled the same. Here’s what it needs to have on it:

A simple list, bulleted, of every account, bill, and credit card you currently have. Include any automatic payments. I’m not saying you have to include all of the passwords–I know that people have varying degrees of paranoia about that sort of thing–just list the accounts. And don’t think, “Well I have everything in my filing cabinet anyway; they can just look through it,” because I guarantee you that there are old accounts in there that have been closed, changed, etc. It’s unimaginably confusing for someone else to come into your paper life and try to figure out what’s what. Trust me.

Here’s an example (this is not really mine):

last edited: 8/22/2009

  • Visa credit card/account through Bank of America (rewards program)
  • matching debit card/checking account (1 checkbook)
  • matching savings account
  • USAA credit card
  • Wells Fargo CDs: 2 (20,000 and 5,000)
  • stocks with Whachovia
  • Roth IRA with Wachovia
  • 401K with Wachovia
  • Bank of America safety deposit box (contains my current WILL and collector’s coins)
  • mortgage with Bank of America
  • car loan with Toyota company
  • life insurance through Amica (50,000)
  • auto insurance with Amica
  • house insurance with Amica
  • health insurance through Medco
  • electric, water, trash bills through City of Schmeh
  • gas bill through Atmos Energy (automatic monthly from B of A checking account)
  • Cable & internet through Verizon Fios
  • cell phone bill through Verizon (automatic monthly from B of A checking account)
  • pool cleaning maintenance monthly with Pools-R-Us
  • maid weekly- Susie McGee
  • magazine subscriptions
  • frequent flyer programs

 Other important things that might be helpful:

  • lawyer’s name who drew up will
  • who has the safety deposit box key
  • who has keys to the house/apartment
  • who your primary doctor is
  • who your veterinarian is for any pets
  • if there is anything of importance in the house, and what your wishes are for them (guns, drugs, diaries, art…)
  • if you have any specific wishes that aren’t in your will that you’d like honored
  • or if you don’t have a will, what you want to happen. It won’t be legal, but if your loved ones love you back and respect you, hopefully they’ll honor your wishes.

And of course, you have to update it for it to remain useful. Try to remember to edit it as big changes come. Otherwise: update it on the first of every year or before every big life event (major surgeries, big trips, etc.).

All of these things are things that made my life harder when my dad died. I’m sure there are books and articles out there that say other things and more things, but I’m speaking from my own personal experience. The last thing you need at such a difficult time is more confusion, more decisions to make, more crap to sort through. It won’t be hard. Just copy-paste my list if you want, and change the bullets one by one to match your circumstances. In fact, don’t delete any; if you don’t have a mortgage, write “no mortgage.” That would make things easier too.

A morbid blog, I know, but an important thing to think about for the people you love. Here’s hoping you don’t need it for a long time to come.

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