Friday, July 19, 2024

Grand Plans: Collecting Documents

HomeMoneyGrand Plans: Collecting Documents

By Susanna Barton

A challenging caregiving crisis for a family friend taught me a lot about how I will approach my own Golden Years, a life chapter I now anticipate with great enthusiasm. Through personal experiences and conversations with others, I outlined 20 steps we can all take now to be better prepared for what should and will be the very best time of our lives. I look forward to sharing them in First Coast Senior Living each month, one step at a time!

The first step we’ll take together is an empowering one – it’s to take an accounting of all the documents, files, papers, contracts and records that define who we are, what we have, how we live and most importantly, where it all is. Though most of us know exactly how our financial records or health insurance paperwork is filed away, we need to make sure others do, too, so our loved ones can step in for us and steer the ship should we need to step away from the helm. We want to ensure those we’ve entrusted to help us can have what they need to manage our affairs in a pinch. Collecting important information is a powerful place to begin.

Whether it’s a manilla folder full of papers, an organized binder of cataloged information, or a digital file or email, an “important documents binder” or collection of pertinent information is something we can all start assembling now – and the New Year is a perfect time to get organized.

The good news is, you don’t have to reinvent the wheel or worry you’ll forget some necessary tab or document as you assemble everything yourself. There are many information binders, or “In Case of” document templates, out there. This one from AARP is pretty good and allows you to fill it out online, which is helpful and will be useful to your loved ones in a pinch.

A friend told me she made a list of everything essential for her family.

“Get a spreadsheet going of monthly bills, insurance premiums, utilities, lawn care, cleaning service, pest control, income stream, doctors, and regular prescriptions. “In other words, how is the household maintained? Who has access to their place?” she suggests.

Assessing your life paperwork collection through that lens – how is my household, my life, my career maintained and how is it accessed – is a smart approach.

If the hardest step is the first one, we’ve done well today. In next month’s column, we’ll take the second step: considering how all this paperwork and information we’ve collected and discussed above can also be an essential means of telling our life story. I’m looking forward to continuing the conversation! 

Susanna Barton has worked as a professional writer in Jacksonville for nearly 30 years. Her book Grand Plans: How to Mitigate Geri-Drama in 20 Easy Steps and its accompanying workbook, the Grand Planner, are available in local stores and on Amazon.

Photo Credit Top: Anete Lusina

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