Gratitude Day 632
Proverbs 16:3 – Before you do anything, put your trust totally in God and not in yourself. Then every plan you make will succeed.
I LOVE a good 3-ring binder.
I am a fan of them. For years, I have used them to file important things, keep track of various items and to hold reference information. I have used some 3-ring binders so much that they have basically fallen apart. Like this one. The spine is broken. The cover flops around when I open it up. It’s put in its time.
But here is the 3-ring binder that is THE MOST important one that I own. I call it the “Vielhuber Info” binder because it holds all the really important stuff about Hubby Rick and myself. If there was a fire in our house, it is the second most important thing that I would grab; right after the box that has all the little notes in it that Hubby Rick has given me.
Truth? The 3-ring binder has more helpful and important information than the box with the letters and cards and notes. But the sentimental value of the note box? PRICELESS.
However, if you put together a 3-ring binder, or some other method for holding all of your most important information, this will be PRICELESS as well.
Here’s the deal. Recently, I have had several conversations with people about what how to plan for the future. This led to conversations about what information is important and what to do with it. This is the information that we think should all be in one spot … but most often isn’t.
Here’s my solution to how to organize important information: the “Vielhuber Info” 3-ring binder. I put this 3-ring binder together when I realized I had a lot of information that Hubby Rick might not have access to. Most couples operate this way. One person keeps track of the important documents and information for the family. But what happens when something happens to this person? How does the other person figure out their system? Where the information is? How to access accounts whether online or in person?
This is why I created this binder. It includes every piece of important information relating to our affairs or access to this information. If something happened to me, Hubby Rick knows he simply has to pull out this binder. I have also let the appropriate person know about this binder in case something happens to both of us. This person knows where to begin with our affairs if necessary.
Why is having this information pulled together so important? When something happens, people need information. Access. A place to start. This binder provides this. Notice, I said, “when” and not “if.” There will be a day when the information in this binder will be especially important. I have no doubt about this.
I developed a system that works for us. Your “best” system may look different from mine. This is OK! Create something that will benefit your family. I know some may think that having all of this information in a binder and in paper form is not the best. Anyone who knows where the binder is could access it. This is true. But I also know that if all our information were digitized and, on the computer, Hubby Rick would not feel as comfortable about finding and using it. I’ve developed a system that works for us. You create one that is best for you and your family.
So, what information have I included in this binder? Each of the listed sections has its own tab in my binder. Here we go.
- General information with our birthdates, social security numbers, phone numbers and PIN’s, driver’s license information. I have also included basic information on other family members. I also have information about how to access my phone and laptop, where a whole lot of information is stored. I know this may sound silly, but it’s important for someone you trust to have easy access to your digital devices. This is not information for a whole bunch of people; just one or two that you trust. There is also a copy of our marriage certificate.
- Passwords – I keep a running list of passwords for various accounts that I use regularly. I know having these on paper may not recommended. There are online password keepers which are helpful. But I feel this information needs to be accessible. If you prefer not to have passwords on paper, have information on how to access them. We all know how difficult it can be when we don’t have the right password.
- Bank accounts information – the institutions, account numbers and how to access them. I have a way that I track financial information monthly, and this is also part of this tab.
- Retirement information – same information as bank accounts as well as a monthly tracking that I do. For accounts that have a beneficiary designation, review who is listed and make sure this is who you want. If not, get it changed now. If you work with a financial planner, include this. If you have ever had a long-term financial audit or plan, include a copy. Annually, you can access information from Social Security. Put it in there.
- Health information – our doctors and dentists, how to contact them, and our health insurance information. Hubby Rick and I have both completed Health Care Power of Attorneys (HCPOA), which are documents that are followed if a person is not able to express their wishes about their health care. Most states have a boilerplate document that you can complete that follows the requirements for the state. If you need a copy, use your friend Google. When you sign your HCPOA, it MUST be witnessed by two people who are not family members and not your health care providers. These are such important documents for to have. They give you a place to express your wishes about your health care if you are not able to make decisions. If you do not have one completed, PLEASE FILL IT OUT AND GET IT SIGNED. It will be much easier for your loved ones if something happens. Think of this as a gift to your family.
- Wills – include the information and who helped you draft them. If you have your will in another secure location, include this. Some wills include specific information about certain possessions. If your will does not and you have specific intentions, include a dated and signed list with your preferences. If you have minor children, provisions for them should be included. What age should a person have a will? Everyone over 25 should have one, especially if minor children are involved. Earlier is OK.
- Insurance information – all the different policies that you have including but not limited to life, long-term care, house, vehicle, etc. If you have insurance on other family members (such as life insurance), include as well. Have contact information for where the policies are held. Payment information is also helpful. If there are beneficiaries, review them and make sure the current beneficiary is who you want listed.
- Trust information – if you have one.
- Education Accounts – if you have set-up education accounts for loved ones, include.
- End of Life information – if you have burial plots, list where they are located. You may have deeds for these plots as well. If you have arrangements with a funeral home, include this information. If you have specific wishes for your end of life, write them down. Things to consider are how you want your body handled, information about a service, obituary, etc. More information is better than less. It will be helpful for your loved ones. I know it feels morbid to do this but trust me, it’s SO. VERY. HELPFUL.
- Other information relating to your family – there maybe other specific items that are unique to your situation. Make sure all financial information is included somewhere/somehow. If there are specific organizations or causes that are important to you and you would like them to be remembered with your estate, include this information. I believe more information is better than less information. Include anything that you feel might be potentially helpful and important. If you are wondering if it is important, error on the side of including it.
Yes, there is a whole bunch of information here.
When I began our binder, I did not have everything in it. I started with just a few pieces of paper. Over time, I added tabs and information. Some of things have been modified over time. When this is done, date and sign the information so that it is clear what the most recent information is. I’m not sure what all the laws and rules are about these things. I know it varies from state to state. I do think a signature and date is helpful. I only keep the most recent piece of information in the binder to avoid confusion.
I also realize that gathering this information in itself is a process. Maybe one of the reasons why you haven’t done this is because you aren’t sure about some things. Or you haven’t come to agreement with those who are involved in the decisions. My advice is to begin with what you can. Put together what you have now. Begin conversations with the people you need to have the conversations with, knowing that there will probably be multiple conversations. It took awhile for Hubby Rick and I to work through some of our thoughts about things. This was part of the journey. We are also comforted in knowing that we can change things any time and when we feel it is appropriate as well. While Rick may not be involved in the regular maintenance of our affairs, he is very aware of the big picture and what is involved.
Should this information be kept in a safe deposit box or something like this? Your choice. Again, just make sure someone knows where it is. I know someone who keeps their information in their freezer. Not a bad idea as long as someone else knows, which obviously someone does.
There’s a well-known saying that goes like this: failure to plan is a plan to fail. Not having all of your important information in one spot isn’t failing. It just makes life a lot easier. Having a plan is helpful. Important. Life-giving.
At times, people have said, “God will help my family figure out it.” I am confident that God can. And does. But after sitting with countless families, watching them try to figure things out when they are overflowing with grief, do them a favor. Give them a gift. Help guide the process with a plan. I have heard too many people say, “I wish he/she would have told me …”
Honestly, I go back and reference the information I have in our binder ALL. THE. TIME. It’s helpful for me right now. And … I am confident that when the time comes and someone else needs to look up something, they will be able to find it. And they will thank you for the time and effort you put into pulling everything together.
For the ability to plan for my family, I am grateful.
Holy God – When should we plan and when should we let things take their own way? Sometimes this is a difficult question. Yet, it seems that when planning can help alleviate stress for a loved one, it makes sense to plan. Often, these topics are difficult to talk about. Give us grace as we have these conversations. Amen.
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