Sunday, October 10, 2010

Preparing for the Inevitable

Exit Strategies - A Plan and A Place Your Your Estate Information - book cover

Most of us don't like to think about our eventual death or incapacitation - which partly explains why so many people don't have a will or the other legal documents we all should have. (If you're one of those people, please go see a good estate attorney. If you live near me, I can recommend one.)

But as I've said: Where there's a will, there's still more to be done.

Would someone helping you during a medical emergency be able to give the hospital your medical history and list of current prescriptions? (Trust me; there's nothing like being in the emergency room, filling out the forms, and trying to remember which hip Mom had replaced, when she had that heart valve surgery, etc.)

Would someone be able to log onto your computer? Would someone know how to care for your pets? Where to find the circuit breaker box? (Mine's hard to find.) Who to contact about your situation? What you'd like in your obituary? The list goes on and on.

If you'd like to pull all this information together, there are a number of products that can help. I'll mention just a few of them.

1. Exit Strategies: A Plan and A Place Your Your Estate Information

Jeanne K. Smith is a professional organizer known as an expert in the estate organizing field - I took her training class - and this is her workbook. It's not the fanciest-looking one around; the spiral-bound workbook looks like something typed up on the computer and copied at the local copy center. However, it's the most complete book of this sort that I've seen. You can get a spiral-bound hard-copy version, or you can get a CD to create a Microsoft Word document on your computer (PC or Mac).

2. Putting Things in Order

This nicely-formatted journal is designed to capture much of the same information as Exit Strategies, except it has no section for medical information. If you've captured that information elsewhere, this book might work fine for you. There is no electronic version.

Life.doc binder

3. Life.doc

This bright-red binder also captures much of the information in Exit Strategies, except it has no section for indicating funeral/memorial preferences, obituary preferences and such. It also seemed to lack pet care information, and computer/internet information. Some of the type on the forms was a bit hard to read, with dark-orange type on a light-orange background, for example. The binder comes with a CD which works on both PCs and Macs; Microsoft Word is required.


JustGail said...

Yet another "really really should do this" task I've started and abandoned a few times. We did get wills done, however we probably should review, as it's been about 15 years since they were done.

On a related note, do you have helpful sites for those of us who will be on the other end of the situation? I will be co-executor for my parents, and really don't know what's expected besides
"sign where they tell you to".

Pauline Wiles said...

Funnily, one of my big motivators for getting my personal paperwork more organized and clearly labeled is to make this easier for anyone who gets the unlucky task of tidying up my loose ends!
I do have a will, and my husband could certainly find it, but if we were both wiped out together, then things would get very interesting for the folks in England.
The computer thing troubles me; we hear so much about keeping passwords secure, it seems hard to plan for the case where you want someone to have access. Again, if my husband meets an untimely end, I will have a hard time figuring all his technical stuff out.

Cathy said...

JustGail there is an book on amazon. I can't recall the name.
There was some helpful info on Trust at
A Brief Overview of a Trustee's Duties
and Wills at businessweek.
Co-executor responsibilities

And of course the American Bar Association has some great resources. Estate Planning

Hope Jeri doesn't mind me piping in, I just finished some research myself.

And struggler, I hear ya. :)

Jeri Dansky said...

Cathy, I'm always glad to have someone else post useful resources! Thank you!

JustGail, when I became the executor of my mom's estate, I turned to the estate attorney who did both her estate documents and mine for guidance. Mine was a very simple situation, fortunately.

Besides what Cathy mentioned, I also see that Nolo has some information: an article and a book. I don't know anything about this book, specifically, but I've often found Nolo publications to be useful.

Struggler, there are some solutions targeted specifically at the whole computer issue; I'll write a post about this soon.

And good for you for considering (if not yet resolving) the whole what-if-we-go-together scenario.

The Clutter Cutter said...

You are so right. When my 18 year old son was killed in a car crash, we had to "guess" many of his passwords. There are things we will never recover because they died with him.