After my mother passed, I found myself having a bit of an internal anxiety attack about making sure all of my own personal ducks were lined up in a row. We hear a lot about the importance of advance directives, but another thing to consider is keeping an inventory of essential financial and personal information. Not only will you find this a useful reference tool for yourself, it will be there for your loved ones should the time come when they need access to the information.
I created my “personal inventory” years ago at the suggestion of a co-worker, but I never took care to see that my mom had something similar. As her Alzheimer’s progressed and she was unable to handle even the simplest of tasks, it was too late. In the midst of an already chaotic time in our lives, I found myself scrambling to gather information regarding bank accounts, outstanding loans, credit card accounts, insurance policies, and many other things.
Keep It Simple
If you haven’t gone through this exercise, I highly recommend it, and your family will thank you. It may take some time to compile the initial inventory, but once it’s built the hard part is done. From that point forward, you just need to pull it out periodically and make pertinent updates.
This doesn’t have to be anything elaborate; in fact, simple is probably better. I use a password protected spreadsheet (make sure your immediate family members know the password!!). Column headings might include:
- Category (bank account, credit card, debit card, loan account, investment account, insurance, et cetera)
- Financial Institution or Company Name
- Account Number or Policy Number
- Expiration Date and CID (if applicable)
- Website info (URL and login information)
One Stop Shopping
Keep in mind that this is a living document, and it’s your document so there are no rules. Think about what your family would need to know in the event that you were suddenly unable to speak for yourself. Do they know your social security number? How about your employer’s benefits hotline number? I’ve even included a list of the medications I take and their dosages in my inventory.
Another tip – when you’re thinking about insurance, don’t forget the benefits you have through your place of employment and those ID and policy numbers. If you have a long term care policy, include that. What about a home equity line? You may also want to include a note specifically explaining where important documents are filed (e.g. “…in the fireproof safe, in the spare bedroom closet” or “…in a safe deposit box at XYZ Bank on Main Street. The key is located in the bottom desk drawer.” The idea is to create a one-stop shop, so that during a crisis, all of the information your loved ones need will be at their fingertips. Be sure that your immediate family members know the document exists as well as its location and password.
My last suggestion is that you schedule an appointment with yourself to review the inventory and make necessary updates at least quarterly. Put a reminder on your phone or personal calendar so that you don’t forget. The document is only as good as the information on it.
Do you have a personal inventory? What other suggestions do you have for creating a useful document? We’d love to hear your tips!