Organizing Your Family Information Binder
What is the best way to communicate with family members about your medical, financial, and legal documents and information? Create a Family Information Binder.
When my Florida law practice drafted estate planning documents, we would present our clients with a Legal & Financial Family Information Binder. This was a binder where they could put all their estate planning documents and important financial information in one place.
We called it the “911 Binder,” meaning that when you got a call from the hospital, you had one place to go to for the Health Care Power of Attorney. If you needed to go to a bank, you had the Financial Power of Attorney as well as a list of bank accounts and key to a safety deposit box.
In case of death, there is one place to find the will, organ donation information, and funeral arrangements. Because Florida is prone to hurricanes, people needing to evacuate quickly could have all their important documents in one place (especially with the information on their homeowner’s insurance policy)!
This was helpful because in a crisis the last thing you need is to figure out where you put your documents! We found it was great to have one place for families to share information. In many cases, one spouse handles most of the financial transactions, banking, insurance, etc., and the other spouse knows little, if any, of the finances. If the spouse with the financial knowledge dies, the other is overwhelmed with new information and responsibility. Having a binder can inform your family about what assets, accounts, policies and benefits they have.
You can easily customize a binder of your own. Organize your information into sections such as family information, medical information, and financial information and put the details in the corresponding sections. For example, instead of filling out a form of who is your personal representative or executor of your will, beneficiaries of your will, etc., put a copy of the will in the binder and a note of where to find the original will. Instead of listing all your bank accounts and account numbers, put a copy of a recent statement in the binder. If you are more organized, you can draft a document on your computer with your important information and update it when necessary. Keep an updated copy in the binder.
Your binder should have the following 15 sections:
(1) MY FAMILY INFORMATION
(2) HEALTH CARE POWER OF ATTORNEY & MEDICAL INFORMATION
(3) HEALTH INSURANCE & MEDICAL BENEFITS
(4) ADVANCE MEDICAL DIRECTIVE OR LIVING WILL
(5) FINANCIAL POWER OF ATTORNEY & FINANCIAL INFORMATION
(6) PROPERTY & ASSETS
(7) BUSINESS INTERESTS & INFORMATION
(8) CREDIT CARD & DEBT INFORMATION
(9) DIGITAL ASSETS & PASSWORDS
(10) PROPERTY INSURANCE & OTHER INSURANCE
(11) LIFE INSURANCE POLICIES
(12) LAST WILL & TESTAMENT
(14) FUNERAL ARRANGEMENTS & ORGAN DONATION
(15) LETTER OF INSTRUCTIONS FOR AFTER YOUR DEATH
For more details on each of these sections, read the post Family Information Binder – What to Include.
Once you have your binder set up, review it at least once a year. If you are the person in your family who handles most, if not all, of the finances, it is a good idea to sit down with your spouse and go over the information with them.
If you don’t have a spouse, share your binder with a trusted family member or friend, such as your Financial Power of Attorney or personal representative.
You should keep your binder in a safe place such as a locked fireproof cabinet or safe. Someone other than yourself should know where to find the emergency binder and how to access it.
To get a head start on organizing your family information binder, you can find downloadable PDF forms at My Family Binder Forms . The time you spend on organizing your binder is time well spent.
As Benjamin Franklin once said, “For every minute organizing, an hour is earned.”
Written by: Catherine Hodder, Esq.
Catherine Hodder, Esq. is author of Estate Planning for the Sandwich Generation: How to Help Your Parents and Protect Your Kids.
To learn more, go to: www.HodderInk.com