It’s spring cleaning season again, and while many of us envision having perfectly organized drawers and closets (wouldn’t that be nice?), there’s one area that most of us never tackle. What we don’t realize is, failing to organize this part of our lives could create major problems for our loved ones and us in an emergency.
I’m talking, of course, about organizing your important household documents – those documents that could help a family member or a close friend understand how to care for you, and your day-to-day obligations, if you were to become suddenly sick, injured, or worse.
This is a task most people put off as long as possible, and I get it. The idea of sitting inside on a warm spring day, sifting through your financial documents, your will, your medical directives and all of your household accounts probably sounds like a really dull way to spend your time! But if you don’t think a bad situation could ever happen to you, I encourage you to think again. Bad things happen to good people every day. Just check your local news source for details of the latest violent crime or accident, and you’ll see what I mean.
Financial “scrapbooking” is a way to organize all of the important information someone might need to step in and run your household if you were unable to do so. But it’s also a thoughtful way to ease anxiety, grief or any other emotions your loved ones may feel if something were to happen to you. If you’d like to create your own financial scrapbook, join me on Wednesday, April 25 at 3 PM EDT, for my complimentary Financial Scrapbooking webinar. I’ll cover all the details on how to get organized and what to include.
Start with a Letter
An article in the Huffington Post in 2013 discussed the life of a war correspondent working in Syria. The correspondent wrote a letter to her husband and four-year-old daughter to remember her by if, for some reason, she died covering the war. These types of “legacy” letters help us tell loved ones about our happiest memories, our family histories, our values and our last wishes. (You can find some examples here.)
Let’s hope for the best, though, and assume you’re still with us! If you’re injured or sick, you can also leave a letter of instruction. In it, you can detail which loved ones should be notified, which bills should be prioritized, and any subscriptions or mail to be placed on hold.
Create Individual Sections for the Rest
Whether you decide to create a paper or virtual scrapbook, be sure to include clear sections for the following items:
- Important contacts, including who to contact and how in the event of your death
- Household and bank account numbers
- Login information for all online accounts, including social media
- Copies of important documents, such as your will, medical directive, birth certificate, marriage license, divorce decree, car titles, property deeds, burial plots
- A copy of your financial plan (include investment account numbers and a recent statement for each account)
- Insurance documents with account information (auto, life, health, umbrella, etc.)
- A list of bills that need to be paid each month, along with bill amounts (if known)
- Child care instructions and school information
- Pet care directions and veterinary information
- Tax returns for the past three to five years
Make it a Family Project
Creating a financial scrapbook can make an excellent family project. Adult children may want to help their parents create one, or you can enlist younger children to help by creating drawings or decorating the notebook. Older children can help copy or scan documents. Financial scrapbooking can also be a great conversation starter. Through the process, you’re telling your family story, helping each other understand what’s important, and connecting to each other in a unique way.
Register for the Webinar Today!
On April 25, you can learn more about how to get started on your financial scrapbook. I’ll also detail which important documents you should keep, and for how long. Finally, we’ll talk about security considerations, and how you can protect your financial scrapbook from falling into the wrong hands. You can register here for the webinar, and if you have specific questions you’d like me to address, feel free to email them in advance to Ramey Becker, at email@example.com. I hope you can join me!