Proverbs 16:3 – Before you do anything, put your trust totally in God and not in yourself. Then every plan you make will succeed.
Recently, I went to a funeral for a woman who was a member of a church that I used to serve as a pastor. She was a strong faith-filled woman who embraced faith whole-heartedly. She not only participated and practiced her faith; she lived her faith. Holly believed in the power of prayer, witnessing her faith in gentle ways that suited her personality and not being afraid to share how she felt about faith.
Did I mention this woman was younger than my husband, Hubby Rick?
Yep, nothing quite like a funeral to bring life into perspective. I am confident nearly everyone in the very full church pondered what the meaning of life as we listened to and witnessed her crushed family say good-bye.
This woman was the rock in her immediate and extended family. Her family articulated the huge hole her death would mean to their family. Her brothers both died in their 50’s with cardiac complications. Holly also had cardiac issues. Years ago, she had a value replaced. She embraced a lifestyle of healthy eating and regular exercise. As much as she tried to overcome her genetic predisposition for cardiac challenges, she was not able to.
During the luncheon that followed the service, the subject of a topic that I have previously shared on this blog came up. A blog post where I share about an important 3-ring binder that I call the “Vielhuber Info” binder because it holds all the really important stuff about Hubby Rick and myself. It captures much about our lives, where to obtain specific information and little details that might be helpful.
Let me be clear: this binder does NOT bring meaning to my life. Or Hubby Rick’s. Meaning is much more than pieces of paper. What it does include are pieces of information that share what is important to us. The breadcrumbs that provide insights into what someone would need to know if something happened to us. Just in case. It provides a roadmap for what our priorities are, how we view our resources and what we have in place to continue these whether we are alive or not.
In most couples, one person tends to handle the sensitive and timely information. In our marriage, I am that person. More than once, I have thought to myself, “If something happens, Rick should know this.” So, I started putting together a binder where he or another designated person can follow the breadcrumbs when the time comes.
It IS important to plan for the future. Sometimes, we are not sure what information is important and what to do with it. I decided that having everything in one spot would be most helpful. Thus, I put together this 3-ring binder. I wanted a system that explained where information can be found and how to access it, whether online or in person.
This binder 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.
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 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 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. There is information about how to access my phone and laptop, where a whole lot of information is stored. 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. A copy of our marriage certificate.
- Passwords – I keep a running list of passwords for various accounts that are used regularly. 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 track our financial information monthly, which is included in this tab.
- Retirement information – same information as bank accounts as well as a monthly tracking. For accounts that have a beneficiary designation, review who is listed and make sure this is who you want. If not, change it 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 and 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 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 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 including but not limited to life, long-term care, house, vehicle, etc. If you have insurance on other family members (life, health, etc.), include as well. Have contact information for where the policies are held. Payment information is also helpful. If there are beneficiaries, review them. 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. Include the deeds or where to find them if you have them. 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 may be 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. More information is better than less. 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.
Gathering this information 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. Begin with what you can. Put together what you have now. Start conversations with the people you need to have the conversations with, knowing there will probably be multiple conversations. It took a while for Hubby Rick and me to work through some of our thoughts. 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.
Going through this process helped us identify what IS important to us. Where we find meaning and how we can pass this along to others. While Rick may not be involved in the regular maintenance of our affairs, he is very aware of the big picture. We worked through this meaning part together and used it to guide our decisions for living now as well as in our dying.
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 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. They will thank you for the time and effort you put into pulling everything together. It will also help them see what brought meaning to your life. What is most important to you. What legacy you want to leave.
If there was a fire in our house, the first thing I would grab is the box that contains all the little notes in it that Hubby Rick has given me. There are cards and notes scribbled on used envelopes and sticky notes. The second thing I would grab? The Vielhuber Information 3-ring binder.
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. 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.
Maybe you have been “meaning” to pull together some of this information and just have not. Please consider this your little push and encouragement to do so. You will be glad you did and there will be a day when someone else will be blessed by it as well.
For the ability to help define what is important to my life and brings me meaning, 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.
For more blogs about meaning, check these out:
The Resurrection and What it Means for Believers by Lisa Granger
The New Stage of Grief: Finding Meaning in Hardship by Ashley Olivine
The Meaning of the Middle: A Poem About Midlife by Amy Cobb
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