The coronavirus has certainly rocked our world and shown us how quickly the whole world can be turned upside down, so it is never too early to get all your important information organized and updated.
Because two things are certain—taxes and death. We know when taxes are due, but we never know when death will occur. And it’s not even about death—if someone becomes disabled or comatose do the family members know where important information is located and how to use it?
There are several ways to keep this important info. If you use paper copies, store them in a location that is both fireproof and burglar proof. If you have your info on your computer, be sure it is password protected and backed up. Many banks and financial service companies provide online storage for your documents, which is another option. Whichever option you choose, be sure your family knows how to access it.
The types of documents that need to be available include, but are not limited to: birth certificates; sacramental records (including marriage license); military discharges; trusts; power of attorney; debt Instruments; wills; citizenship papers; deeds; business arrangements; mortgages; leases; retirement papers; vehicle titles; insurance policies; divorce/annulment decrees; income tax returns; passports and driver license copies.
The next thing your family must have is a complete list of important contacts or advisors. These are the people your family would need to contact if something were to happen to you.
The list includes: attorney; accountant; insurance agent; financial advisor; real estate advisor; banker; stock broker; and friends you would recommend as a wise source of godly counsel. If you are employed, they also need contact information for key personnel at your job, such as your manager or the human resources manager.
Your family, or your caretakers, need to have a complete picture of your financial situation. What are the bills are and how do they get paid? There are so many on line transactions these days and if someone is not familiar with how the bills are received and paid, they may get into financial trouble out of ignorance. Remember to document URLs, security questions and passwords for your online accounts.
When documenting the bills, capture the company issuing the bill; the account number; how the bill is received; the email address to which it is sent; monthly, quarterly or yearly due date and how it gets paid. Is it an auto draft from the bank, or paid via a credit card, or the bill payer function on your bank’s website?
A Net Worth Statement is a good tool to give your family a financial snapshot. Begin by listing your debts (credit cards, mortgage, car loans, student loans, etc.) then list all your assets (cars, boats, personal property, bank and brokerage accounts, real estate, stocks, bonds, mutual funds, company benefits, etc.) Calculate your net worth by subtracting debts from assets.
The third way to give your family a financial picture is by having a spending plan they can access and use. Knowing how much you spend on a monthly basis NOW helps with adjustments when the situation changes. If the current income becomes unavailable, how does the family survive financially?
Hopefully you either have life insurance or are at a point in life where you are self-insured. Be sure your family members have a complete picture of all the insurance in place and available to them, including life; homeowners; umbrella; auto; health; disability, long term care, be sure to include work related insurance.
One thing we all hate to think about is health care decisions, but it’s important for you to have: HIPPA waiver, Health Care Power Of Attorney, Organ Donation documentation and most of all a Catholic Living Will.
Be vigilant in making sure that your health care and end-of-life directives follow Catholic teaching, and not those of a society that is looking for easy and quick fix solutions, such as euthanasia. Agreeing to a euthanasia clause as part of your medical directives is contrary to our faith.
Everyone who is alive has inherent dignity, deserving basic care, even if there is no hope of recovery. Nutrition and hydration must be provided, even via artificial assistance, along with other basic necessities such as the provision of warmth, cleanliness and pain management.
To apply this reasoning correctly we must recognize that all human life, not only a particular kind of life we might consider “normal” or “productive,” is precious and should be preserved. St. Pope John Paul said the term “vegetative state” is unfortunate and potentially misleading—a human being must never be dismissed as having the status of a vegetable.
Planning your own funeral may be a morbid thought, but if there are favorite readings or songs you want at your funeral or if you want someone who is very special to you to sing at your funeral Mass, then it’s a good idea to write down what you want so those left behind know what your wishes were. It is a blessing for your family if they do not have to make these decisions during a time of grief.
Let’s remind ourselves of three realities:
We all will die. As Isaiah told King Hezekiah, “Thus says the LORD, ‘Set your house in order, for you are about to die’” (2 Kings 20:1).
We will take nothing with us. “And [Job] said: ‘Naked I came forth from my mother’s womb, and naked shall I go back there’” (Job 1:21).
Someone else will get our stuff. “…I [Solomon] must leave them [my possessions] to the one who is to come after me. And who knows whether that one will be wise or a fool? Yet that one will take control of all the fruits of my toil and wisdom under the sun” (Ecclesiastes 2:18-19).
There is a lot of financial turmoil in the world today–and so many situations make it clear that the economies of the world and our very lives are more fragile than most people imagined.
One of the best ways to demonstrate your love for your family and friends is to get your important information in order and encourage others to do the same.
Join us on the Compass Catholic podcast for more about creating, updating and organizing your important information.