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Ben has been married for 47 years. He always managed the family's money. But since his stroke, Ben can't walk or talk. His wife, Shirley, feels overwhelmed. Of course, she's worried about Ben's health. But on top of that, she has no idea what bills should be paid or when they are due.

Across town, 80-year-old Louise lives alone. One night, she fell in the kitchen and broke her hip. She spent a week in the hospital and 2 months in a rehabilitation nursing home. Even though her son lives across the country, he was able to pay her bills and handle her Medicare questions right away. That's because, several years ago, Louise and her son made a plan about what he should do in case Louise had a medical emergency.

Plan for the Future

No one ever plans to be sick or disabled. Yet, it's just this kind of planning that can make all the difference in an emergency. Long before she fell, Louise had put all her important papers in one plac...

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What personal and financial records should I maintain and keep updated?

  • Complete personal and financial records will have most of the details you need to plan for any changes that might come up in the years ahead—such as retirement, a move, or a death in the family.
  • Personal records are facts, dates, names, and documents that are part of your history. A personal records file should include the following information:
    • Full legal name
    • Social Security number
    • Legal residence
    • Date and place of birth
    • Names and addresses of spouse and children (or location of death certificate if any are deceased)
    • Location of “living will” or other advance directive if one exists
    • Location of birth certificate and certificates of marriage, divorce, and citizenship
    • List of employers and dates of employment
    • Education and military records
    • Religious affiliation, name of church or synagogue, and names of clergy
    • Memberships in organizations and awards received
    • Names and addresses of close friends, relatives, doctors, and lawyers or financial advisors
    • Requests, preferences, or prearrangements for burial.
  • Financial Records should list information about insurance policies, bank accounts, deeds, investments, and other valuables. Here are some suggestions:
    • Sources of income and assets (pension funds, IRA’s, 401K’s, interest income, etc.
    • Social Security and Medicare information
    • Investment income (stocks, bonds, property, and any brokers’ names and addresses)
    • Insurance information (life, health, and property) with policy numbers and agents’ names
    • Bank account numbers (checking, savings, and credit union)
    • Location of safe deposit boxes
    • Copy of most recent income tax return
    • Liabilities – what is owed to whom and when payments are due
    • Mortgages and debts – how and when paid
    • Location of deed of trust and car title
    • Credit card and charge account names and numbers
    • Property taxes
    • Location of all personal items such as jewelry or family treasures.

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What legal documents should I have prepared?

  • A will is your chance to say who should receive the things you own. Another way to do that is a trust.
  • A standard power of attorney or a durable power of attorney can give one person the right to handle personal or financial matters for another. A standard power of attorney is not useful, however, if the person being cared for cannot make their own decisions.
  • A durable power of attorney may be a better choice because it is effective even if a person becomes unable to make decisions for himself.
  • Another type of document, an advance directive, describes in writing what your wishes about health care are in case you become terminally ill.

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