What should we have organized and ready in case something happens to us? When Iku Kiriyama's husband passed away, she knows now that she could have been much better prepared.
Her advice to us included:
Make sure every medical provider you see has the whole story on your health. Whether you go to an HMO or a private medical group, you often will see different doctors and specialists and you shouldn't assume they will all be equally well-acquainted with your history.
If you have hospice care, ask for counseling and information right away. Your hospice caregiver has vital information that can ease this last time you have. There are other options than hospice, like in-home care, that you might consider as well.
If you or someone you love has been diagnosed with a fatal disease, of course you want to be positive and keep searching for a cure, but take the time to enjoy each other's company before it is too late.
Iku actually uses a cardboard box for her important papers. She keeps it near her front door on a cart. When she travels, she takes the box to a friend's house, in case of a fire or other disaster. She emphasizes that the information must be kept current. If you put a box together and then store it away, it won't have what you need when you need it.
What information should go in the box?
- Names and contact information for all of your professionals: estate lawyer, tax professional, financial advisor, Realtor (ahem, that would be me, right?), trust attorney, personal banker, doctor, dentist, etc.
- Current statements for all of your asset accounts.
- Current list of every service provider you use, including utilities. Think about it. Your survivors need to be able to stop services and avoid running up unnecessary debt.
- Think about "Who would know where this is?" about anything you own. Here's a good one, how about a set of keys to your vehicles? And the key to your safe deposit box?
- Important documents you should have: marriage & birth certificates, will & trust documents, ownership papers for autos, boats, other expensive items and of course your house, Medicare, Social Security, insurance of all kinds including long term care, medical bills and copay receipts. Note: if you've paid off your house loan, be sure you have the letter of reconveyance of the deed of trust. It is one document that can be difficult to replace, especially these days with lenders going out of business.
- Make a list of your wishes concerning funeral arrangements, if you want flowers or donations made to your favorite charity.
- Besides keeping the original documents all together in a safe place, you need a hard copy, plus you could use a computer copy. Iku has a flash drive of all the documents she needs. You could use a CD, or you could keep it online, but you need an index that gives the location of everything that isn't physically in the box.
So what did Iku consider the most important preparation? She thinks it is simply to say, and keep on saying, what you want to say to those you care about.