Last weekend I learned about a gift my friend Jody Antrim had given her grown children at Christmas. I loved the idea of it so much that I asked Jody if she would share about it here on my blog! No matter what season of life you’re in, this gift can inspire you in some way. Maybe you need to create a binder like this or maybe you need to request that your parents create something like this for you!
I’ll let Jody fill in the details:
This Christmas my husband and I gave the gift of “peace of mind” to six people and the total cost for all six was under $75! Our gift was to “put our affairs in order” for our two adult daughters, their spouses, and ourselves. I just turned 65, and my husband and I are in excellent health. So why the need to do this when all is well? A better question: Why wait for the stress of a critical diagnosis or unexpected accident? It’s always the right time to share the gift of peace of mind. This is what our gift looked like before wrapping it up.
There are so many ways to organize important information. I could have gone paperless and prepared a digital file for our gifts. But I’m a 3-ring binder kind of gal, and I needed to touch it and be able to easily see where changes were needed. It takes some work, so it’s important to choose a method that makes it as easy on yourself as possible.
The key is to start and tweak as you go along. Our daughters’ notebooks were wrapped and then opened Christmas morning, but they will remain a work in progress, we hope for many years to come. There will be annual updates and additions as required.
With some ideas from others who have experience with this task, I began. Each notebook had 5 tabs and this is how I divided up the information.
Tab #1: IMPORTANT DOCUMENTS:
This section contains a copy of our will. We used an online version from Quicken. It cost $60. It guided us through all the questions we needed to answer. It includes delegating authority over our finances and health decisions. We printed it out, found 2 witnesses younger than ourselves who live nearby, and then got it notarized. We have the original in our file cabinet we’ve named “Information Central” and made copies for each of our girls. We also included in this section of the notebook, copies of our birth certificates, marriage certificate, passports, Social Security cards, etc. All the originals are still in “Information Central” at our house.
Tab #2: FAMILY CONTACTS and PASSWORDS:
I come from a large family spread across the country. I have a document with each of my siblings’ address, phone, and email address. I have another “Next Generation” document of my nieces and nephews with the names, birthdates, addresses, phone, email, and their children. Additionally I may add other important family friends to this section.
We also included a spreadsheet of all our passwords! There are so many! Both the family contacts and passwords include information on where to find these documents in our computer.
Tab #3: HEALTH
In this section we included the names and contact information of doctors. One could also include any major medical diagnosis and treatments. We have also authorized our doctor to freely share any of our medical information with our daughters at their request. We are an open book!
We also included Medicare and supplemental insurance information. Insurance is simplified because we have one agent for our health, auto, and homeowners’ insurance.
Tab #4: FINANCES:
This included the name and contact information for our financial advisor and our account numbers. We also included our bank account numbers and online banking information. This is also where we include debit and credit card information.
Tab #5: OTHER:
For now this includes information for our post mortem wishes.
Deciding on tabs is all about making it your own. I have already thought of future tabs. I want to add “HEIRLOOMS” to the notebook. There are furniture pieces, jewelry, artwork, and other items passed down that have special meaning. I will include photos and descriptions so the stories aren’t lost. I also want one titled, “HOME” and keep track of home improvements.
There are a number of factors that made this gift less challenging to create. Our life is pretty simple. We didn’t have complications such as divorce, step children, owning our own business, debt, multiple properties, unresolved conflict in family relationships, etc. More complications may call for a visit to a lawyer to iron out specifics. But even with those challenges, you can begin with some simple steps. One step at a time and you can build order into your life.
One thing we did when we gave the notebooks to our daughters and sons-in-law, was include plans to treat the six of us to dinner at a quiet restaurant. No children were invited…it was an evening to ask questions, discuss decisions, and mostly just enjoy the peace of knowing we love each enough to do the work required. That dinner made all the work worth it! All six of us savored the meal, the company, and the peace of mind.
We gave this gift to our daughters for Christmas, but it can be given at any time. And it’s a gift that will keep on giving as we add to it and update on a regular basis. If you are the parent of adult children, I encourage you to share this gift with your children. If you are the adult child, treat your parents to dinner and let them know how much you want to be prepared to honor their wishes. Show them this blog and help them with the process.
We are beginning 2017 with a load off of our minds…and so are our adult children. I’m grateful for the assistance I was given, and I want to pay it forward. Have fun at the office supply store!
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