Technically this post belongs on two lists because while it is an organization item, it is also about helping your family through one of the toughest times in their life. Your organization of this drawer, whether it is in the solid form or an electronic one will save them much time and sorrow in their time of loss. It can also save them a lot of money. It is a companion piece for the post by my guest blogger Sharon Hudson, Georgia Mortician, on end of life planning.
By planning out this future event the tendency to overlook, or overspend due to grief is taken away. It is one of the greatest gifts you will ever give your family.
My first encounter with a Legacy Drawer was just as my father was going in for the open heart surgery to possibly save his life. Unfortunately it did not, but the little bit of information he gave me that last night saved my brother and myself so many difficulties and financial mistakes it was a true blessing. That was 1988 and we’d lost our mother just eight months earlier, so much was still in upheaval.
Dad’s form of a Legacy Drawer was a small book in which he had scribbled the name of his life insurance companies, his broker, bank account numbers, where his safety deposit box was and little else.
As executor of his estate I found there was so much left out I was determined that my family would never be caught in such a confused state should I pass suddenly. Yet many years passed and I did nothing more than my father did. A few scattered notes here and there.
Now as I am trying to follow the Total Money Makeover path to financial freedom the subject has came up again.
Dave recommends you have eleven items located together all in one place where your family knows it is and can find it easily http://www.daveramsey.com/article/legacy-drawer-keep-your-family-prepared/lifeandmoney_relationshipsandmoney/ in your legacy drawer:
1. A cover letter
2. A will and estate plan
3. Your financial accounts
4. Funeral instructions
5. Insurance policies
6. Important documents
7. Legacy letters
8. Monthly budget
9. Tax returns
10. Safety Deposit box information
11. And your passwords
He goes into more detail on these on his website
How you customize your particular Legacy Drawer is up to you. While you may not own a lot, or feel the need to give out a lot of details another person might. Where you keep your Legacy Drawer is also a personal issue. I personally have both a hard copy of the Legacy Drawer and an electronic one. The two are kept in separate locations for safety’s sake. What is important is that you do one and you do it sooner rather than later, because there are no guarantees in this life. Other than eventually we will all die and that the government will tax us.
As I worked on setting up our Legacy Drawer I found I expounded a lot on certain aspects, while doing short shift to others. At least this was so in the beginning, but as time passed and I saw more and more families and how they struggled because they didn’t have certain documents or know a password I found each of the eleven items needed detailed information. More importantly I realized that both my husband and son needed to have not only knowledge of this Legacy Drawer, but they needed to add information to it as well.
Just because we are a family living under one roof doesn’t mean we all feel exactly the same way about certain issues. Nor do we always share the same passwords.
My husband I file taxes jointly, but I had no idea how he did them. So I needed a lesson in how to read them and how certain entries came about.
While I may hold a safety deposit key for another family member or friend, neither my husband or son hold keys on that same account, in fact when asked neither knew I had the keys. They would need to know to let that family member or friend know I had passed and return the key to them.
Speaking of safety deposit boxes, and accounts please put a "Upon Death" authorization on all such items. My father didn't, the bank had told him he couldn't since Mom had just died. As a result we had to get a court order to get into the safety deposit box to get the insurance policy to pay for his funeral, which as Sharon will tell you is not a good thing. Especially when the bank fought us even after we got the court order.
To avoid such a hassle if you keep your original insurance policies in the saftety deposit box, keep a copy of it where it can be accessed 24 hours a day by anyone that may be doing your funeral arrangements.
My son is an adult that has his own tax returns, his own income, his own social security number and his own desires as to how he wants to leave this world. So his information needs to be there as well.
A will is far more than an estate will. A living will should be created with your own medical directives. While I do not want to be kept alive artificially, I know one person who is terrified that there might always be hope and therefore wants to be on machines until they die despite the machines.
If you do not have these issues down in writing your family could end up with large legal and medical expenses. All it takes is a few minutes, a public notary, and a simple form you can sometimes get from your library or online for free. Be aware these are state specific. Those few minutes could save your loved ones a lifetime of anguish as to whether or not they did the right thing.
If you do not have that medical directive where your loved ones can find it, then you have done them a disservice. If they can't find it, you could be put on machines when you don't want to be and then they will have to go to court to take you off. If even one family member fights it can be very traumatic for all involved.
While I cannot donate organs due to my past medical history, I know one person who wants to give their entire body to science. All these wishes and known issues need to be in the Legacy Drawer.
So each of the eleven items needs to be address fully and directly by each family member.
My grandmother even had down exactly what she wanted buried in, the bible versus she wanted and the hymns, so did my mother. Because it was written down, we could fulfill their wishes. Could your family fulfill yours? Do they know your social security number? Your medical history? What songs you want at your funeral? Do you even want a funeral? Would you prefer to be cremated? Are you terrified of being cremated? Put it all down for your family.
What goes into a Legacy Drawer, everything you feel would make your passing easier on the ones you love. Everything you would want to have or know about a loved one. It is one of the greatest gifts you can give your family.
So while this not my usual cheery post for my blogs I feel it is an important one. This combined with the expert post by Sharon Hudson on end of life planning are two blog posts I really felt the need to share with the recent death of my Aunt Faye, who would delight knowing that her death maybe saved financial and emotional problems for others in this world.
God bless you Aunt Faye. You will be greatly missed.
Jan who will move on to less deep thoughts now in OK