This might seem like a funny question, you might be wondering what kind of secrets I am trying to find out about, or that I am digging around and being nosey! I am asking about your personal affairs, your financial documents, your health care wishes…. are you keeping secrets when it comes to that part of your life? 

The reality is, that when we do not have conversations with our family about our important documents, personal care wishes and details for finances, in effect we’re keeping secrets from them.

We spend a great amount of care when creating legal documents that will take care of us when we no longer can. We create our power of attorney for personal care, our power of attorney for property, and our will which includes determining who the best person is to be named in this role for our care.

We also take the time to ensure that the documents are carefully crafted with a professional and list out all of our wishes that we have for the future. After all of this care and attention to detail is finalized, one step that we seem to miss is that we do not share this information and set up our appointed people for success.

What exactly do I mean by this? To illustrate my point, I would like for you to envision the following scenario:

Close your eyes and imagine that you can no longer speak for yourself; that you can hear your loved ones asking you questions, however, you cannot answer these questions, you cannot point, you cannot grunt, and you cannot speak.

Now I’d like for you to imagine that while in this state of being unable to communicate, your power of attorney has questions for you; they are asking you are you allergic to anything? Are you on any current medications? Where do you bank? Where can I find your bills? How do I log into your accounts? Are there any costs that I should know about and pay for right away? What kind of food does the dog eat?

Now if you’re like me, you found this exercise extremely stressful. Realizing that we haven’t shared important information to the very people that need it most is quite the eye-opener.

How do you set up your power of attorney or executor for success?

Make an inventory listing of your life:
Put all your financial documents into one place. The last thing that your power of attorney or your executor should be doing at a difficult time is searching through all your drawers and cupboards looking for the documents that they need to ensure that everything runs smoothly for you. First of all, the thought of someone going through all my drawers causes me to cringe and to immediately clean out my drawers! Secondly, can you imagine the frustration that your power of attorney or executor would be feeling trying to hunt down the documents that they need? Placing them all in one spot will make it a lot easier for your power of attorney or executor to start their job and keep the ball rolling.

Put all your financial documents into one place:
The last thing that your power of attorney or your executor should be doing at a difficult time is searching through all your drawers and cupboards looking for the documents that they need to ensure that everything runs smoothly for you. First of all, the thought of someone going through all my drawers causes me to cringe and to immediately clean out my drawers! Secondly, can you imagine the frustration that your power of attorney or executor would be feeling trying to hunt down the documents that they need? Placing them all in one spot will make it a lot easier for your power of attorney or executor to start their job and keep the ball rolling.

Contact list:
Create a list of friends and family that you would want to be reached out to immediately if something were to happen to you. You can put in order of who to call first, alphabetically, actually, you can do it however you like. This will make things easier for your power of attorney or executor to reach out to the people that you identified. First, it takes the guesswork out of things for your power of attorney and executor, especially if you are hiring a professional executor.  They may not know everyone that is on the family tree. Remember, to not only include friends and family, but there should be a list of professionals that you work with such as; doctor, dentist, pharmacy, vet, accountant, lawyer, children’s schools, so on and so forth.

Passwords:
We live in a digital age where we need a password to get into our password account! I can’t remember all of my passwords, and I’ve had to keep a list of all my passwords just so I can get into certain accounts. However, this list was on my computer… which was password protected! If all my passwords are hiding behind a password protected document, how will my power of attorney or executor ever find them and be able to log into the accounts? Writing down all of your passwords on a paper copy and keeping it with your inventory package for your power of attorney and executor is a very wise approach.

Remember, this is sensitive personal information and should be kept safe.  I always recommend to clients to keep their POA & Executor package in a fireproof safe that is bolted to the ground.  If one cannot be obtained, perhaps asking if your lawyer can store it along with your will in their vault may be an option for you.

Having these three items in one spot for your power of attorney or executor would make their lives so much easier when working through your affairs. Again, envision not being able to able to answer the questions being asked by your loved ones…. and if that doesn’t cause you to cringe, just imagine them going through all of your drawers! When our family is stressed out at a time of need and deep grief, the last thing we would want to do is add another burden on top of everything else.

ETP Canada has created a kit for families to use for all of their important documents.  This “Go-Binder” is to be shared with their power of attorneys and executors and also helps to facilitate a great conversation with family. If you would like more information about our famous “Go-Binder” package,  please feel free to visit us at etpcanada.ca

Written by: Debbie Stanley, Trust & Estate Consultant at ETP Canada

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