Your 7-Point Checklist For When Life Suddenly Changes

Let me start with a story. I live in Denver, Colorado, with my husband, Brian, and our two beautiful daughters, Addie and Eden. One perfect day in Breckinridge, Colorado, we were doing what we love to do as a family—snow skiing at our favorite resort—when our lives suddenly changed forever.

We were skiing across the mountain when a sudden sharp pain in my head stopped me in my tracks. I skied over to my husband and told him my head really hurt. I bent over and held my head in my hands for 30 seconds. When I stood back up, I felt tingling at the base of my skull and shooting pain down my spine. I knew something was wrong.

I experienced what they call a “spontaneous subarachnoid hemorrhage,” which is short for a brain bleed. As a healthy 49-year-old female with no preexisting conditions, this was a shocking turn of events. Within an hour I had my diagnosis and was on a Flight for Life back to Denver, not knowing if I’d ever see my family again.

Although nobody wants to think about it, planning for what would happen upon your death or incapacitation is the single most important thing you can do to protect your family.

They’ll likely be scared and overwhelmed when something traumatic happens. Make it easy for them to handle your affairs by creating a folder where they can access all the information they need.

Here’s a checklist of 7 key items you should store in that folder, so your family can easily access it during an emergency:

1. Copy Of Your Social Security Card

Your loved ones may be eligible for survivor benefits through the Social Security office if you die. Your Social Security card will remind them to explore their options.

For example, if your spouse dies and you are caring for minors all of you may be eligible for a benefit up to the family maximum.  This will go a long way in helping cover expenses.

2. Employer Contact Information

If you’re a W2 employee, put the contact information for your HR representative in the folder. Your family can contact this person to check on employer-sponsored benefits such as group life policies, pensions, stock option plans, 401(k)s, health insurance, and more.

3. List Of Online Accounts & Login Information

It’s estimated the average person has approximately 90 online accounts. Your loved ones will need access to these accounts when settling your estate. Otherwise, they may have to get a court order to avoid violating any terms of service agreements with your online providers.

When making your list, be sure to include login credentials for:

  • Your phone, computer, and other electronic devices
  • Password management software (if you use it)
  • Email accounts
  • Social media
  • Financial accounts, including those for debts, banking, investments, peer-to-peer payments like Venmo and PayPal, and more

4. Copy Of Life & Disability Insurance Policies

Keep copies of your life and disability insurance policies in your folder, along with any pension information or military benefits your family is set to receive.

5. Copy Of Estate Planning Documents

Proper estate planning needs to happen prior to an event. Yes, getting estate documents in order now costs money, but consider the cost and time to your family if they have to go through probate to settle your estate.

If you haven’t already, establish an estate plan with a trusted professional so your beneficiaries are protected and the distribution of your assets goes smoothly and according to your wishes.  Then keep a copy of this plan in your folder.

6. Contact Information For Trusted Advisors

Your folder should contain contact information for your CPA, attorney, financial advisor, insurance agent, and any other trusted individuals. In times of stress, these individuals can help your loved ones access accounts, process claims, and navigate through their new normal.

7. List Of Safety Deposit Or Other Storage Locations

Create a list of all the storage and safety deposit boxes you have, along with their location. If you have a home safe, provide the access code to it.

Where Should You Store Your Folder?

As you can see, this is highly sensitive information, so be careful about where you store it. You could keep your folder locked in a home safe, or you could go digital and use software like EverPlans to store it securely online. If you go online, make sure you choose a company with strict security measures in place. And then let your trusted loved ones know where to locate your folder should they need to access it.

Take Action Now Before Life Throws You A Curveball

I can tell you from experience that when something traumatic happens, the one left standing—in my case, my husband—may forget everything. Even though I had shared with him where to find our life policies, assets, disability policies, etc., his mind went completely blank the moment I was loaded on that flight. Make it easy for your family by having everything in one easily accessible place.

At Fusion Financial Group, we want you to be as prepared as possible when life throws you a curveball. If you’d like help putting together a plan that offers peace of mind and security, reach out to us today. You can schedule an introductory meeting with me by calling 303-793-3202 or emailing [email protected].

Author: Keri Pugh
Keri Pugh is a Wealth Advisor with Fusion Financial Group, an independent financial planning firm and fiduciary based in Denver, CO. Keri has over 20 years of experience in the industry, as both a financial advisor and Principal. She obtained a bachelor’s degree in Finance from the University of Northern Colorado and is an alumna with national sorority Delta Zeta. Keri holds a variety professional licenses, carries the esteemed mark of Certified Financial Planner (CFP®), meeting rigorous education and experience requirements in key areas of financial planning, as well as the designation of Accredited Investment Fiduciary (AIF®), a symbol of her dedication to upholding the fiduciary standard for clients. As a wife and mother to two young children, Keri is particularly drawn to working with thriving families and women. This is not only reflected within her practice but also in her regular sponsorship of the local PTA and volunteer work with the elementary school. Outside of the office, Keri enjoys traveling, skiing, and the Colorado great outdoors with her family. She often lines up movie marathons for the family and, in line with many clients, is a beginner golfer and a wine enthusiast. To learn more about Keri, connect with her on LinkedIn.