As you probably know, I’m all for planning and making thoughtful decisions about money. To the extent that we can be mindful of both our life goals as well as our financial situation, it can go a long way to help make good things happen for us.
Of course, I’ve seen a variety of things happen in people’s lives that were simply not planned or accounted for. Some of them can be great, happy things! Others, not so much. For example, just in the past few years I’ve known families impacted by things such as:
- A guy I know passing away at an early age from cancer, leaving behind a wife and 4 kids
- A friend having both parents, albeit much older, passing away within weeks of each other
- A family with two kids having the breadwinner lose his job and face a protracted period of unemployment
- A couple losing their home to foreclosure, then having both people be on the verge of losing well-paying jobs
I don’t think those people expected those problems, especially when things seemed to be going just fine beforehand. Now, the latter two are situations that perhaps could have been mitigated – particularly the last one. However, those are still situations where otherwise bright people got caught up in unexpected circumstances. The road to recovery is there, but it can be daunting!
That being said, in the first two situations, it’s hard to recover. In other words, there is an end game that happens and it can leave family members in a lurch.
To that end, I think it’s worth creating an “in case of” file.
I’ve written about this topic before, but thought it would be a good time to revisit it. In particular, we’re talking about creating a file that can be helpful to survivors in the case of an unexpected death. After all, nobody would want to leave family members scrambling to deal with money issues at such a trying time emotionally.
Yeah, I know it’s not an uplifting topic. Sorry, I’m just trying to help.
Here is a list of 8 things that can be included in an “in case of” file:
Your Will. Of course, you don’t want things to be left up to other people to decide – nor do you want people to fight for clarity when little exists. After all, we’ve seen how all kinds of problems with inheritances can really impact lives after the fact. Make things clear to your family members, document things and discuss ahead of time, and have it ready in your “in case of” file.
Power of Attorney. If a person can’t make decisions due to being incapacitated and/or non-functional at a critical point in time, having power of attorney resolved and made clear ahead of time can actually help decisions be made. This should be made available.
Titles and Keys. It’s important that authorized survivors have the pertinent title and keys. For example, while we know that it can be important to have a safe deposit box, it can be a problem if it can’t be accessed at the right time. This also applies to issues regarding one’s home, cars, and other property.
Important Passwords. This is something that is seemingly becoming more important as our world evolves. Getting access to the right accounts and services can be very important, and nobody wants things to be delayed, or jump through all kinds of hoops at a challenging and busy time. Keeping this information available can be a really good idea.
Account Information. Details of accounts should be kept handy. By this, we mean where (account institution), what (account type), and instructions for accessing the account. Brokerage accounts, retirement plans, savings accounts and the like all qualify.
Credit cards. Details of credit cards should be kept handy. One wouldn’t want to have these remain open, right? Not to mention that there might be balances due.
Loans. Aside from credit cards, there could be other debt that someone might have. In particular, this might include debt of a longer-term variety, perhaps secured by specific assets. Whatever the case, details of all loans should be kept available.
Miscellaneous Valuables. Not the actual valuables, as they could be anywhere. Rather, it’s good to keep a list of such valuables, so nothing is unaccounted for. Jewelry, collectibles, and other such items could fall into this category.
The Bottom Line: It’s good to be prepared. You never know what can happen, and having everything organized can be a big help. An “in case of” file might not be the most fun thing to think about, but it can be really important to have!
What are your thoughts about keeping an “in case of” file?