It’s Time To Organize the Records

by Joan on March 1, 2011

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Ah, I’m longing for the days of celebrating my 50th birthday – even though it was only two weeks ago.  Since all that fun I’ve not only caught a wicked cold, but the realities and responsibilities of growing a bit older (but not growing up!) have set in.

In addition to my yearly physical and all the associated tests (yuck and double yuck,) I decided to take a hard look at our important family records, information and paperwork.  I’m the keeper of all that stuff in our home and there’s no time like the present to get things in good order.

It’s more complicated than simply making sure you’ve got a will (you do have a will, don’t you?) in good standing.  A LOT more complicated.  I didn’t trust myself to know all the answers, so I did a bit of research and got a book, Get It Together: Organize Your Records So Your Family Won’t Have To, to make sure I’ve covered all the bases.  There’s a slew of websites and other books that can guide you as well.  This book was highly recommended on Amazon and came with a CD that included all the forms.

The book takes you step-by-step through everything you need to think about, papers you need to assemble, and legal documents you might need to obtain.  Once it’s all together in a binder, make sure not only you and your spouse know where everything is, but one or more appointed friends or family members should know as well (this one I totally forgot.)

I was surprised at how much I hadn’t thought of when I read the book.  We have the basics – will, power of attorney, medical directives, etc.  And I keep fairly good financial records. But I need to put everything together in one place and there are some gaps.

Here’s some smaller things the book brought up that never even crossed my mind:

  • Who to contact (someone would need to explain to the thrift store why I stopped showing up)
  • Transferring frequent flyer miles – I didn’t know you could!
  • Canceling memberships – won’t be needing that yoga membership anymore
  • Pet care information like vet, type of food, routines and meds
  • Contacting service providers – housecleaners, lawn care, etc.
  • Location of personal calendar so appointments can be cancelled
  • Computer account passwords (mine are a mess and getting them organized is definitely on my to-d0 list)

On a creepier note, I learned that even though my will specifies that after organ donation I want my body donated to a medical school, I have not chosen a facility, contacted them for requirements, and given instructions on final disposition of remains after they’re finished doing whatever they do.  Good grief – who knew it was that complicated!

A task I hadn’t thought about that is most meaningful is including a note to my loved ones who will use the binder and carrying my wishes.  Not an easy task, but one that I’ll be thinking about as I put all this information together.

It’s something we don’t want to think about, or even take time out of our busy lives to do.  But it’s important. As the Nike ad says, “Just Do It.”

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