Where the financial bodies are buried

Inspired by this post by Miss M @ M is for Money, about preparing for the unthinkable.

Before I went to Jordan for a week’s vacation over Thanksgiving 2007, I sent an email to my mother updating the financial information I had sent her before my trip to Thailand in 2005, but this time I cc’d my brother and sisters. My mom and I share a rather dark sense of humor that the other’s don’t, so I knew what kind of reaction they’d have to my travel insurance information about “repatriating my remains”. It’s such an evocative turn of phrase, isn’t it?

As organized as my mom is, I shouldn’t rely on her ability to retrieve emails from years ago, so I’m putting together sealed envelopes of info to keep in my locked fireproof box – I know my mom has memorized where I keep the keys and the box (after all, she’s likely to find some cold hard cash in there, so it’s worth remembering!). This is what she’ll find in my little Brinks box…

  • A note of all SS numbers (in US and UK)
  • All accounts I hold – numbers, websites, passwords – so she can pay bills with my money in the event of incapacitation, or at least know where to get the money from
  • Two blank signed checks so she can pre-date them and empty my accounts in the event of my death without waiting for all the legal crap to kick in.
  • Contact information for my accountant, landlord, financial advisor and doctors
  • Health insurance information
  • A reminder that she has my original whole life policy in her fireproof box
  • Passwords to my business yahoo email account so she can set up an auto-reply informing clients that I’m unavailable for X weeks or dead or being held hostage in Sudan.
  • A pathetically short list of contact numbers/emails of people who I think might want to know if I’m dead, dying, or in a coma – 2 friends, 1 client, the ex-husband, and a man who hopes that one day he’ll be free to spend the rest of his life with me.

Of course, I fully expect them all to do as my sister did when she arrived at my apartment 4 hours before I did on my way back from Mexico last May – go on a treasure hunt for stashed cash. It wouldn’t be out of greed (well, not primarily), but because they know me pretty well and my habits haven’t changed, like, ever. Right now they’d find fives and tens under my laptop (change for clients), the $100 Christmas tip earmarked for something nice rolled up in a jar, and a total of ~$30 in the pockets of assorted jackets and bags. All of that is deliberate – I hate the idea of having zero cash on me if I dash out the door.

I just want to do this to make things easier for my family. If I’m in such a bad state that they need to open the box, I’m not really going to be all that concerned with my future.

Got any contingency plans of your own?

P.S.  I travelled in Jordan with a British tour operator, who required travel insurance and I opted for a policy with act-of-terrorism coverage. So when I informed my mother where I’d be spending our national holiday, and she started screeching “How could you do this to your mother? It shares a borders with Syria, Lebanon and IRAQ!!!”, I was able to rather smugly tell her that it was so safe that terrorism coverage was only an extra 29 cents.


6 Responses

  1. this is the smartest idea i’ve heard all year 😉 seriously, you’ve now inspired me to do the same and post about it…good looking out!

  2. My parents did the same to me when they went on extended trips — they’d let me know where all the important docs are…where the contacts list is…where jewelry/$$ is stored…etc.

    Your bullet point 3 – is a very good point. Something to really consider

  3. That is a pretty impressive list. And like Ehong points out, point 3 is rather clever. Great thinking. I take it your mother’s organization skills rubbed off onto you? 😉

  4. It’s a good plan – I never even thought of the blank cheques. Before I left for the Middle East a couple of years ago, I made copies of all my identification and wrote out all the numbers for SS, bank accounts, etc for my parents. Of course, you should have a power of attorney and will drawn up – but you have these arrangements made regardless if you travel. I had jokingly told my Mom that there was a layover in Bagdad on one of my Mid-East flights… needless to say, the joke didn’t fly.

  5. J Money – I felt all flattered about your “smartest idea all year” comment, until I realized it’s January EIGHTH.

    MoneyFunk & Ehong (welcome to my blog!) – I can’t take credit for that one, it’s all my mom’s idea. We have blank checks on each other’s accounts just in case.

    Saver Queen – moms really don’t like jokes about your death. I told her how much money she’d be the beneficiary of and reminded her that she has 3 other kids to shower with her fun brand of motherliness – apparently that wasn’t much consolation. Imagine that.

  6. It is kinda morbid but it needs to be done. I’ve heard horror stories of executors having no idea what accounts the deceased had. Or what if you’re stuck in the hospital for a few months and you need someone to pay the bills etc. You’re way more prepared than I am, I might have to steal a few ideas from you.

    Ready for spooky, I had just finished writing the line about “the unthinkable happening” when Mr M, out of the blue, yells from the other room “I hope you die first”. He had no idea what I was working on, he was just thinking about his loved ones who have died and didn’t want me to know that pain. Weird coincidence, I started humming the theme from the Twilight Zone.

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