• This is one of those necessary checklists – not fun but vital.  Accidents happen. Sudden life changes occur.  Illness and death are a part of the circle of life.  But when terrible things happen and a family is grieving the last thing they need is to be completely confused about the family finances or daily life necessities. A ‘Just in Case’ file is to prevent this from happening – to minimize the trauma and lighten the load of those left behind. Often families do not discuss plans or do a poor job of addressing things thoroughly. And then they are left, during a time when their focus should be on grieving the loss of their loved one, scrambling in search of documents, bills, investments and other items necessary to maintain the normal functioning of their household. You and other family members don’t need the added anxiety and can take the proper measures to be prepared.

    Often families have a division of labor.  One person might handle the bills while another might handle the daily running of the household and juggling of the children’s activities. Regardless of who handles what, everyone should be on the same page when it comes to responsibilities and organizing this checklist. Hopefully, you’ve already dealt with Discussing your Will as released in a previous Playdate article. So now, in order to make your life a little easier, I made a short checklist of what should be covered in case of your unexpected absence.


    1. 1.  Banking – List the different accounts (checking, savings and CD’s with amount and maturity dates) along with all applicable log-in information.
    2. 2.  Bills – This would include all credit cards, department store, student loans, mortgages, utilities and others. Specify if you have auto-payment for any of these along with outstanding balances.
    3. 3.  Medical – Specify various conditions (medical, dental, mental health, etc.) for all family members along with prescriptions, history and various allergies.  List the doctors for each family member and specialists if applicable.  And don’t forget about the family pets- medical information, insurance information and veterinarian numbers.
    4. 4.  Insurance – All policy numbers and premiums paid for property, medical, life, car and other insurances.
    5. 5.  Official Documents – Include location of passports, birth certificates, adoption papers, prenuptial agreements, marriage license, divorce papers, social security information, tax documents, titles to vehicles, property grant deeds, mortgages, the original copy of your will (a photocopy will not do) and etc.  If some of these are in a safe deposit box then be sure there is a second signature on file and everyone knows where to find the key.  If keeping it at home, you should invest in a lockable fireproof file cabinet so these items stay safe and protected.
    6. 6.  Passwords – You’re going to include your log-in information and passwords for all of your accounts. For this I recommend that you use some abbreviations or codes (make sure your family knows how to decipher the abbreviations and codes) in case your document falls in to the wrong hands.  There are websites that handle this- you can store all log-in and password information (Splashdata.com, and others) if you feel comfortable, for a monthly fee.  Be sure everyone knows that site’s log-in and password if you use one.
    7. 7.  Investments – List your real estate, stocks, websites, and other investments as well as where verification for these can be found. This is a good place to add your accounting information along with who handles your finances.
    8. 8.  School Information – Include instructions for registration, online accounts, lunch bills, school clubs and any special needs or requests associated with all family members.
    9. 9.  Special Instructions – This is where you would reference your Living Will, special wishes for other family members, as well as ‘Hidden Treasures,’ such as paintings, jewelry (who gets what) and other valuables.
    10. 10. Phone Numbers – List your family members, closest friend(s), doctor, professional advisers (lawyer, accountant, broker) and the person who handles employee benefits where you work.
    11. 11. Location, Location, Location – Make sure they can find it. Some people like to keep it on a file on their computer but I’m a little more skeptical about privacy and prefer a hard copy. To help preserve it, I keep mine laminated (a Ziploc will do fine) and in a safe location known only to a few very trusted individuals. You may want to keep one copy in a safe deposit box or send it to a trusted person who lives out of state (in case of a natural disaster in your own state).

    Some family members might feel uncomfortable talking about this stuff and just don’t want to think about it. But not talking about it doesn’t make it go away.  Changes in life are inevitable and preparing is necessary and wise.  Preferably sooner than later!  The good thing is that once you get it done, you’ll feel relieved.  You can update every 6-12 months to keep it current. So, I urge you to do it now and consider helping your siblings and parents prepare as well.  In our house, we made it an after dinner event.  We all sat down (kids included) and etched out what we wanted our remaining family members to know in case of our absence.  The kids simply wrote down messages to other family members, while the adults worked on the actual checklist.  I thought it would make for a morbid evening but everyone ended up feeling happy that they could express their feelings and preferences without having the sadness that usually instigates that kind of sharing.  So, as Nike says—Just Do It!