How to Keep Track of Essential End-of-Life Information

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We found an interesting story in the New York Times about “The Big Book of Everything,” a useful resource that helps you keep track of all your essential End-of-Life documents throughout your lifetime.
The online book was written by Erik A. Dewey, who experienced firsthand how difficult it was to sort through all his father’s information after he passed away. Dewey’s book can be downloaded for free here, and includes tips on how to keep track of your essential information while you are still alive.

Preparing for End-of-Life can be “tedious and not very pleasant,” said Mark Gavagan, who wrote a book similar to Dewey’s called “12 Critical Things Your Family Needs to Know.” “But if something happened to you, would your loved ones know what you have, where it is and what your wishes are?”

We compiled a few suggestions from Dewey, Gavagan and other experts on the type of information you should track throughout your life.

Keep a running tab of all your passwords and logins
Dewey suggests you keep a running list of all your passwords and login information and store them somewhere safe. Don’t hide away where they can’t be found. Make sure your spouse or someone you trust can find them.

A woman interviewed in the NY Times story named Margie Billian recalled how her father on his deathbed, “was giving me passwords and telling me where his items were. This was not enough.”

Keep all your old tax documents
It’s vital you keep all your old tax documents as well as all the tax documents from a deceased loved one for several years after they pass away. It may sound far-fetched for the Internal Revenue Service to audit a deceased person but it happens. In the NY Times story, Ms. Billian recounts how her father’s business was audited by the IRS after he passed away.

Write down your medical history
Keep a record of your medical history so your children and grandchildren know if there is a history of certain illnesses or allergies in your family.

Keep a list of your direct debit accounts
Keep a running list of all the direct-debits you have setup on your bank accounts and credit cards. Estate Planner John J. Scroggin remembers a time when a client’s children closed their father’s bank account after he was unable to handle his own affairs. “They didn’t know an insurance policy worth over $1 million was kept active by direct debits from that account. It was terminated for nonpayment,” said Scroggin.

Name a healthcare proxy
Find someone you trust. “A health care proxy has got to be someone you can look in the eye and say, ‘You’ve got to be willing to pull the plug in the face of opposition from other people,’ ” Mr. Gavagan said.

Don’t forget the mundane things
Write down how your home works: your alarm, your sprinkler system, where all your keys are. “Look at your house as if you were renting it to strangers for the summer and needed to leave instructions,” Mr. Gavagan said.

Read the story here.


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