Daddy Is Gone, Now What?

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Daddy Is Gone, What Mama & The Kids Should Know When They Are Left Behind

By Frances S. Knox

Many times when we are trying to help people in distress after they have lost a loved one and particularly the breadwinner in the family, we find that people have no idea of what assets their family owns, where the accounts are or where to begin with life insurance and debt. I first experienced this when my aunt and uncle who had no children asked me to help. My aunt had been diagnosed with Alzheimer’s and my uncle was concerned if something happened to him, what would happen to my aunt. I made a suggestion to them that I have passed along to clients that come into our office. I pass this along to you as a suggestion for getting organized. So many of the popular television shows these days deal with redesigning and organizing one’s home. More important than any home reorganization you will ever do, is making sure your loved ones are protected when you are gone.

Get a three ring binder and break down it down into the following sections:

  • Life Insurance – Copies of any life insurance policies.
  • Retirement Accounts – Copies of any IRAs, CDs or other documents that your spouse or loved ones would need.
  • Bank Accounts – Information regarding any bank accounts with the account number and how they are listed. Make sure accounts have rights of survivorship so that your family will have adequate funds to protect them until administration can be handled.
  • Deeds – Know where your deeds and titles are located and know who your mortgage account is with, including the account number and balances due along with the mailing address.
  • Utilities – List of all accounts you pay on a monthly basis, including your electric bill, your telephone bill, your cable bill, etc with account numbers and account numbers.
  • Homeowner’s Insurance – Put your homeowners insurance with the account number, how much coverage, what it covers and where the actual policy is kept.
  • Auto Insurance – Put your auto insurance along with the account number, how much insured and contact information including the name of your insurance agent.
  • Loans – Put information concerning student loans or other loans that are outstanding including contact information. Include any loans that are payable to you or your family.
  • Health Insurance – Put information concerning health insurance policies, disability policies and put contact information.Social security numbers for family member.
  • Identity Paperwork – Copies of birth certificates, marriage certificates, death certificates.
  • Taxes – Information regarding tax information along with previous tax bills and accountant.
  • Doctors – List of all doctors your family sees on a regular basis, their telephone numbers and addresses.
  • Close Contacts – List information for close relatives and contact information including brothers, sisters, mother, father, aunts and uncles or whomever is appropriate.
  • Wills – Copy of any living will or healthcare power of attorney & know the location of the original will.
  • Lock Boxes – Information about any lock boxes including locations.
  • Service Contracts – People who perform service on your cars or your house.
  • Clerk of Courts  – Information about the Clerk of Court for Estates in your state and county and your attorney’s information and contact numbers.
  • Funeral Plans – Any funeral details you have handled.
  • Military benefits.
  • Supplemental Health Insurance – Medicare information and any supplemental health insurance polices.
  • Pension Information – Pension benefits from employers.

We were called two weeks ago to come to a lady’s home to prepare a Power of Attorney, Living Will and Will. She had just been diagnosed with a terminal illness. When we got there her daughters had no idea where anything was that her mother had. Her mother’s health was rapidly declining and she tried to tell her girls where her information was. They were to get back to us the on Monday so that we could finalize the Will. Unfortunately, their mother did not live through the weekend. Once she had passed away the Power of Attorney which she had executed was no longer valid. The family now has to go through Intestacy proceedings and be bonded to administer their mother’s estate. When I talked with one of her daughters this week they still did not know where all of their mother’s information was or where to find life insurance information.

Don’t let this happen to your family. Prepare and organize so that those Left Behind know how to proceed.

Frances Knox is an attorney with Knox Law Center and has just been elected to Who’s Who in American Law for 2007. She is a member of the Board of Governors of North Carolina Trial Attorneys. 

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