The Money Savvy Mommy: Do You Have a Financial First Aid Kit?

by Mira Reverente

In the event that you pass away unexpectedly or become incapacitated, a financial first aid kit will make it easier for your spouse or next of kin to get your affairs in order.

In the event that you pass away unexpectedly or become incapacitated, a financial first aid kit will make it easier for your spouse or next of kin to get your affairs in order.

In earthquake-prone California, every other person I know has at least one earthquake kit. In other parts of the country, they have tornado kits. Options are limitless if you do a Google search of disaster kits. Friends have all sorts of preparedness kits in their homes, offices and cars with days’ supply of water and non-perishable items.

How about a financial first aid kit? In the event that you pass away unexpectedly or become incapacitated, a financial first aid kit will make it easier for your spouse or next of kin to get your affairs in order. Even if you’re not ready to pass on or share all your financial info to another person, they should at least be organized in one place and labeled in folders if you are OCD like me.

“You should have at least two back-ups, a cloud-based one and a physical one like an external hard-drive,” advised a friend who works in the tech industry.

Safe deposit boxes are no longer as popular as they used to be, according to an estate planning lawyer I talked to recently. “If you are not on the account, you need a court order to access the box after your loved one passes,” he said.

I love scanning important documents like passports and birth certificates. With the Dropbox app on my phone, I can access them anytime or when I’m traveling. For keeping track of passwords, you can download one of the many free or inexpensive apps like Keeper Password Manager or Password Manager Vault. Or you can write them down and slip it into a folder, not advisable, but it might work for the tech-averse.

Towards the last few pages of my book, I added a list of must-have items to include in your financial first aid kit, which includes copies of:

medical power of attorney
durable power of attorney
living will
estate plan (more on this in a future post)
bank account info
retirement accounts
life insurance
long-term care insurance (if separate from life insurance)
marriage license
vehicle titles
house and other property deed/s
websites and passwords
other documents relevant to your particular situation (ex. adoption papers, proofs of ownership, divorce decrees, etc.)

You can start building your financial first aid kit slowly. Try to devote a few minutes a day or a couple of hours a week to organizing these important documents, making copies and storing them systematically. Involve your spouse or significant other in this process or at least let him/her know where your kit can be found.

Mira Reverente is associate editor of CVH and a longtime journalist whose work has appeared in many local publications. Her first book on money came out last fall. Follow her on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter, for more money savviness tips or check out her new blog 


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