being prepared

The uncertainty of life is certain, and that is particularly true in the year 2020. With that uncertainty, most of us have done the important practical acts recommended by other Sixty and Me writers.

Those would include having an updated will, power of attorney, and living will documents in order as well as a periodic review of financial documents.

That’s the big stuff. So, congratulations if you have those in place and up to date. But, what about the incidentals of our ongoing lives?

This month, I came to realize there are other, non-legal considerations that will be helpful to family and friends should there be an emergency situation.

Earlier this summer, I found myself en route to the hospital (first time ever excluding childbirth) after results of tests were available only hours earlier (non-Covid-related). It was a shock to this healthy eating, healthy living, habitual exerciser.

On the way to the hospital, thoughts flew through my mind. What were the immediate pieces family would need to pick up should I not return home?

I leave you with these considerations.

What Material Things Will Family Want or Need

What of your day-to-day personal belongings or collections will anyone else care about?

I had the presence of mind to tell my husband should the worst come about to save two things: 1) My computer where there is information he would need, and 2) the shoebox of family photos I had not yet completed scanning into my computer. Everything else can be given away or thrown away.

No doubt we all have a favorite blue vase or a piece of clothing (a collection of race t-shirts, in my case) that will have little or no meaning to anyone else.

Don’t burden family with sorting through incidentals. They will have enough on their plates dealing with grief and the fiduciary stuff that comes with the end of a life.

Who Will Want/Need to Know of Your Death or Severe Life-Changing Illness?

Several years ago, I received a voice mail from a man identifying himself as the son of a close friend. He was letting me know his mother had been hospitalized with a stroke. I was shocked as we were scheduled to travel together the next month.

I returned his call for more information and asked how he knew to contact me. He said his mother had told him years earlier where she kept a list of close friends. If anything happened to her, he was to contact those on the list.

I was honored to be on that list and thankful for her forethought. Regrettably, I had not done this earlier myself. After my unexpected trip to the hospital, I found myself, intravenous fluids pumping into my arm, typing into my cell phone the names of friends and associates who should be made aware.

Consider who should be on your list. Friends of a lifetime, that one person in your volunteer organization who will let others know…

Who are the people who would be hurt if they first hear about your death in your obituary? Who would write, call, or visit if you became less able to participate in your previously active life? This doesn’t need to be a lengthy list. Those first names that pop into your head will certainly belong there.

The Numbers List

I once helped a friend look for hours for a policy number for her mother who was hospitalized. We finally found a statement from earlier in the year tucked behind a recipe. I decided then to avoid that type of stress for my family. I made a list of every possible account and number that might be needed.

Is there a central place you keep that myriad list of numbers? These would include social security number, insurance coverage name and number (health, life, and long-term care), as well as active credit card numbers.

A simple list of accounts given to a trusted member of your family will help when you cannot be there to give them the information.

My Positive Outcome

Thankfully, my physician’s identification of an urgent health problem has me back on the road to my active life. For all of us, that eventually won’t be the case.

My experience taught me many things, one of them being that I have the ability to take some weight off those I love by having information at hand when they will need it.

Have you considered the incidentals of what you may leave behind and how you can help your family cope? What are some tips that you have come to realize will be helpful to others in the same boat? Please share your experience with our community.