Your parents or loved ones may not be very organised people.  This can lead to many frustrations.  Bills and legal documents can be found in the most unusual places, such as a life policy in a stack of newspapers, power bills under the place mat at the dinner table.  Papers in drawers.

First of all, it may be a good idea to buy them a safe to keep their important documents in.  Organise it with file folders labeled for easy understanding.  Make copies of everything as well as certified copies for the most imporatant things.

Here are a list of 20 important items that you absolutely need to be able to locate.  

  1.  The names and addresses and docuemnts related to the family financial planner, solicitor and accountant. Is one of them the executor of the will?
  2. Know where their wills are located. When last were their wills reviewed? Have their assets and circumstances changed?
  3. Where their Medicare, Senior, Veteran and CentreLink cards are (the actual cards). Make sure these aren’t being carried in their wallets. Keeping them in their wallet is a possible identity theft risk.
  4. Know what their health insurances covers, where the cards are and the important numbers.  Make copies for the safe, front and back, in case the cards were misplaced.
  5. All bank accounts and bills should be in both of their names, if possible, in case of death.  
  6. Have signed Enduring Power of Attorneys (POA), wills, health directives completed and know where they are kept, even if they haven’t been enacted.
  7. Keep birth and marriage certificates, make copies.
  8. Know where they were born and when the family immigrated to Australia.
  9. If they are veterans of military service, know where the discharge papers are located. This is very important if you are dealing with the Veterans Administration.
  10. Know where they keep (should be in a secure location, not on them) codes and pin #s for all cards and accounts.
  11. Copy of their Trade Union cards.
  12. Know the benefits from their Union or Associations (such as burial plots, pensions, life policies, etc.)
  13. Be familiar with their life insurance policies; where the actual policy is, death benefit amounts, companies, companies’ address and phone numbers, and that the beneficiaries are up to date. Have they changed the death benefit amount?  If their beneficiary to their life insurance policy has preceded them in death it can lead to a probate situation and hold up the paying out of the death benefit.  This can be a sticky situation if those funds are needed to pay for their burial.
  14. Know where the registrations and titles for their vehicles, boats, title deeds to home and other properties, deed to holiday properties.
  15. Have them put you down, or a sibling down, as a person to talk to for credit card bill, life policies, other bills, etc.  If this isn’t done, you will have to file P.O.A.s with the companies, before you will get any help.  Most of the time, it is as easy as calling the company in the presence of your parents, who’s name is on the account, and having them talk with the customer service representative to let them know it is fine to talk with you.
  16. Know where they keep their bills before and after they are paid.  What system do they use for paying their bills?
  17. Know who the family treasures go to.  Is it written down?  Hearsay doesn’t always work.  It can lead to hard feelings later.  It helps to have it written down so everyone can see where these items go after the elder is gone.  Dealing with grief is hard enough, writing it down, in advance, cuts down on the unpleasant feelings later.
  18. Know where their lock boxes are kept.  If the lock box is at another locations, such as a bank, they may be locked down upon the death of the owner of the lock box.
  19. Keep a key or the numbers to the combination to their safe or important papers box.  Some parents may have dementia and it is very common for them to lose the key.  
  20. Tax returns for the past 5 years are important.

Everyone’s situation is different.   As the old saying goes, “an ounce of prevention can be worth a pound of cure”.

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