In my previous post, I mentioned that I had an operation after downsizing to my new home. What needs mentioning also is a subject that you don’t read much about in the articles on retirement planning. It falls under the Estate Planning topic. Having all your important documents in order in the event of your death is not something a lot of people want to think about. But death comes to all, and sometimes sooner than planned. I had already downsized so that my son would have less to deal with when that time came. It only made sense to do something that had been on my mind for sometime: create “THE BOOK” or the “Get Your Affairs in Order Book”. Although my son had a general idea of where all my important papers were, they were disorganized. So I bought a three ring binder, copied all documents that he would need, and organized them by category.
There was a list of all contacts: doctors, accountants, lawyers, minister, condo association, cleaning help, handyman, etc., as well as friends and family with phone numbers. A list of all computer passwords. The financial section had information on checking and savings accounts, with information on bills to be paid, either electronically or by check, and a copy of things like the property tax bill which is paid only once a year. The insurance section had a copy of the declaration page for each kind of insurance such as Medigap, home owners, auto, life and long term care policies, along with contact phone numbers. A copy of my Social Security benefit statement was included along with instructions on how to contact them. Another section had a copy of my will, the power of attorney that allows him to act on my behalf, designation of health care surrogate and living will, along with final wishes for funeral, cremation, hospice care, etc. Many of these documents can be found online with those current for each state’s laws. A document called “Five Wishes” can also be found online which gives specific instructions for your care if terminal. Documents relating to the purchase and sale of various properties in the last year was also included for tax purposes. Miscellaneous information included things like contact names of dealers for the sale of collectibles and information on how to sell an inherited home.
Wow! That sounds like a lot, but just sitting down one Saturday and pulling it all together got it done, and made me think about what really mattered to me. Using a three ring binder makes it easy to pull out and insert pages as information needs updating. Finally, I included a series of memoir pieces I wrote over the last year about my life that I thought my son would find interesting to read sometime. My life now is a lot simpler than it would have been 10 or 20 years earlier or there might have been a lot more that need including.
Many people avoid thinking about their death, particularly young people. As we get older, we get more realistic about the matter. Even so, this is something that could get neglected and create havoc for children trying to handle matters later. I was particularly sensitive to this since my son’s father had died three years earlier and it was a big job for him to handle by himself. Before the operation, we sat down and walked through the book quickly. While he probably hated thinking about all that, he knew where everything was, and that he didn’t need to worry about it again until the time came. For my part, as a planner and a parent, I felt I had done everything I could to make it easier for him, sort of a last gift, as it were. The best part? I’m still here!