Saturday, February 25, 2012

End of Life Planning

End of Life Planning is really a hot topic around this area right now with lectures, editorials, and articles in all the local publications.  Considering the number of old people and the fact that we are living in a foreign country, it certainly does make sense to be prepared to have someone take over the technicalities of our lives, whether because we've died or even if we've suddenly become incapacitated for some reason.  For that matter, it makes sense for people of any age to be prepared like this. If you were hospitalized, could someone walk into your house right now and take over running your life for you? If you died, would your loved ones know where everything is and how to settle your estate?

Each of us should take the time right now to get our affairs in order.  Make sure all the important stuff is in one safe place and not scattered all over the house.  You may know how to find it, but could anyone else? Set aside a drawer, a file cabinet, or even a box where you can keep everything in one place, preferably in carefully labeled file folders.  What will you put in these files?  Here's a list that I've put together from various sources:
  • Will or Trust: plus a letter explaining what you want to happen with everything.  If you have posessions in more than one country, you will probably need a will for each place.
  • Important Papers: passport, birth certificate, death certificate of your spouse, marriage certificate, divorce decree, social security card, medicare card, immigration paperwork, military information, insurance information.
  • Medical Information: the name, address, and phone number of your doctor, medical history, allergies, medication and glasses prescriptions.
  • Bank and Investment Information: bank name and address, account numbers, debit and credit card information, including pin numbers, investment information, and statements from all of them.
  • Funeral Wishes: Don't make someone try to guess what you want, write it down.
  • Next of Kin: a list of names, addresses, and phone numbers, with their relationships noted.
  • Pet Instructions: Where will Fido go when you can no longer care for him?
  • Valuables: Where can your family find your stuff? It would be a shame if great-grandma's wedding ring, hidden in a coat pocket, went out with a charity donation
  • Computer Access Info: Do you have something on your computer that you want to pass on?  Make sure they know how to access the information.
You have to store all of these things somewhere.  Why not put them all in one place to make it simple? Something that I add to this is a small notebook where everything is explained, one page per item. But don't just do it once and never look at it again.  Make a habit of going through everything once a year to make sure that it is up to date.  I do it during the first week in January.  Then I don't have to think about it for another year. 

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