Be Prepared: Organizing Vital Documents for Family Members
Last year, The Wall Street Journal reported that “state treasurers currently hold $32.9 billion in unclaimed bank accounts and other assets.” For the past year, Good Morning America has hosted a segment called “Show Me the Money” where they help people get connected to money that is rightfully theirs. It’s easy to overlook an insurance policy, deed or even have a bank account fall off the radar screen, especially if you face old age or dementia.
This is not a new problem and the amount of money involved highlights the enormity of this issue. I care for two parents with dementia and one of the biggest frustrations I face is the ongoing scavenger hunt for my parent’s documents. They believed they had all their paperwork in order, but failed to consider that their memories would fade. Estate planning doesn’t cover all the practical matters of managing someone with dementia, nor does it provide a catchall when a loved one dies. The devil is in the details – details many people fail to document.
Many of my friends and colleagues have shared stories of the agony of searching for documents when their parents passed on. And since many of us now have our banking and investment accounts on line, this has made it even more difficult for another family member or caregiver to access our account details and information in the case of death or disability. Most banks will only accept a durable power of attorney if it is on their letterhead. Even so, this is not a golden ticket to navigate the many obstacles you will face in trying to manage a loved one, especially if you need to access their accounts to pay bills and support their care.
The kindest thing we can do for our loved ones is to get our own house in order should we even be temporarily disabled and a loved one needs to step in and assist us. There are several categories of documents to consider and some just require that you make a copy so it can be easily accessed if needed.
In addition to the standard items typically recommended, I’ve included several that were required as I have walked the journey with my parents over the past year. While these don’t apply to everyone, they should be comprehensive enough to help most Americans.
• Living Will
• Do-not-resuscitate order
• Specific instructions regarding your wishes
• Durable Power-of-Attorney (many financial institutions won’t recognize this if it is not on their letterhead)
• Durable heath care power of attorney
• Location of documents and as needed access to safety deposit box or home safe combination
• Birth certificate
• Social Security number
• Marriage license/divorce papers
• Driving license
• Military identification/service records
• Other professional license numbers
• Immigration documents (if not a U.S. citizen or a new citizen)
Each should include website, user names, passwords and PINs as established.
• Bank accounts
• Retirement, investment and brokerage accounts
• Stock certificates
• Savings bonds
• Life insurance policies
• Loans, debts or mortgage accounts
• Partnership and corporate operating agreements
• Tax returns
• Personal medical history
• Family medical history
• List of prescriptions and dosage
• List of healthcare providers
• Medical insurance and any related website, username, passcode and PIN as established
• Home, land or cemetery deeds
• Documentation on any home or land improvements with receipts
• Auto titles
• Service plan records, schedules and preferred providers
• Utility accounts and any related website, username, passcode and PIN as established
• Social Media (FaceBook, Linked-In)
• Online services (Amazon, Paypal, Shutterfly)
After pulling most of these documents together, so many people asked me about the system I used that I turned it into a business. You can do this yourself or for your clients, or consider using the guided workbook called the MemoryBanc Register to help get your paperwork organized. Use “NAPO” as the coupon code on www.MemoryBanc.com to receive a 10 percent discount off every order.
This is a difficult journey, but I decided to make the most of it by launching my business and sharing the many lessons I have learned. If you have a parent or loved one with dementia, you can find many tips and tales on http://dealingwithdementia.wordpress.com/ I hope this helps you and your family.
Kay Bransford is the founder of MemoryBanc. Several years ago, her mom called to ask how to get money into their bank account. That call started a six month odyssey. The result was an organizational system that she and her siblings use to help support and care for their parents and their assets.
When colleagues and friends saw what Kay had developed, they asked for their own versions. Kay launched MemoryBanc in 2011 and with the MemoryBanc Register, a 3-ring binder in which users collect and store information and details on personal, financial, medical, online and household accounts.
Before launching MemoryBanc, Kay spent more than 20 years in a variety of sales, marketing and business development positions to include Best, ACA, SIIA, Vocus, Global Secure and Washington Speakers Bureau.