In my Caring for Aging Parents Can Be Challenging post I discussed my challenges when I had to transition my elderly mother to a retirement home. Despite repeated requests that my mother spend some time with me to record critical details in one central document, we just never accomplished that task. In this post I want to impart the importance of maintaining proper personal and financial records.
After my experience with taking over my mother’s affairs, I thought it would be prudent to create a comprehensive document with important information. This would lessen the challenges that would arise if my wife had to take over matters in the event I became mentally incapacitated or I passed away.
Gathering and recording all this information in one central spot can be extremely time consuming. The time spent compiling all this information is far less than the time my wife would have to spend to find all this information without me being present.
In order to spare you some of the work I went through, I have created a Personal Records Log Book. You are most welcome to modify my document to suit your requirements. It is not password protected.
Once you have created this log, I suggest you print and save the hard copy in a secure location due to the sensitivity of the material. I also suggest you save a soft copy on a USB.
In addition, I suggest you scan and save to a USB copies of recent bank, investment, and credit card statements, copies of the various insurance policies in effect (home and auto, life, critical illness, etc.), Wills, Power of Attorney for Personal Care, Power of Attorney for Property. In essence, any document you think is critical should be scanned and saved.
I receive all utility bills and investment statements online which makes it so much easier to save and copy to a USB. If you receive hard copies of these statements, you may want to consider receiving them online. If you prefer to receive hard copies via snail mail, I suggest you retain these somewhere where they cannot get damaged. You will appreciate having saved these in a safe location if you ever experience a flood or fire.
We receive all our utility bills online. I have, therefore, recorded the web address, logon ID, and password for all the companies from whom we receive bills. In addition, I have created bookmarks in our search engine for each page from which we can access our utility bills.
I prepare all our tax returns so I have retained copies of all our tax returns and supporting documentation for the past several years. All this has been saved to the USB.
I have also recorded the contact details for the:
- handyman we contact when we need work done at our rental properties;
- the property manager who oversees our rental properties
In addition, I have created one central document on which I have recorded logon IDs and passwords to access various websites.
This is a huge undertaking. I didn’t have the patience to do it all at once so I broke this entire process into manageable timeframes.
On a final note, I trust you recognize all this work will be for naught unless you immediately update your records to reflect any changes.