“Let’s Talk About the Big Book”

“Let’s Talk About the Big Book”

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Someone recently shared with us an article from The Washington Post called “Let’s Talk about the Big Book” that details all of life’s important documents that should be kept in one central location, like a three-ring binder or a virtual vault in the cloud, for easy access in the case of a death or an emergency. The article reminds us of a piece we have shared in the past – Assembling Your Financial First Aid Kit – and we feel that it adds another layer of detail that is valuable to consider. We’ve listed some of the highlights of the article below. We hope you find these suggestions helpful in preparing your “financial first aid kit” or your “big book”.

The following text is an excerpt from The Washington Post article, “Let’s talk about the Big Book: Everything your family needs to know when you die,” written by Thomas Heath.

The first section should include copies of “important documents.” These can include agreements with professional services such as a financial adviser, lawyers or accountants detailing the extent and cost of services rendered. [This] section might also include copies of passports; anything you keep in your wallet, such as AAA memberships, work IDs, credit cards and Metro fare cards; and your marriage license, birth certificates, and Social Security and Medicare cards.

In our house, we — well, my wife, really — organized a section called “Real Estate & Automobile.” This includes what you think it does: the contract with our cooperative building, where we own shares; our homeowners’ insurance; the title, registration and insurance policy to our car. My wife even included the backup for the E-ZPass because it would have to be canceled if we got rid of the car. Home warranties and the like would also go into this section.

The next three sections of most Big Books can detail any bank accounts; investments, including stocks and mutual funds; and, finally, a list of retirement accounts. If you own stock, mutual funds, savings accounts, money markets or have a retirement account or some other financial assets, you might want to list them [here]. You can call one “Taxable Investment Accounts” and the other “Retirement Accounts,” because some assets are inside employee benefit plans that might require different procedures to access. Don’t forget to include your custodial information — account numbers, etc. — for your pension plans, if you are fortunate enough to have one.

Next on your list should be insurance policies. We have a section titled “Long Term Care Insurance.” In addition to long-term care policies, you might want to list separate sections with headings for “Life Insurance” and “Long-Term Disability.” You might also want to list any and all of your health-care providers, physicians, medications, etc. You might also want to list family and friends, in case both spouses go at the same time and the lawyer or police need to notify others.

The rest of our Big Book is rounded out with credit cards and loans. Country club memberships, which can include stock holdings in the club, can also go in this section. So can gym memberships, etc. Other assets could include jewelry, china, art, furniture, baseball card collections, rugs, etc. and — most valuable of all — my to-die-for Washington Nationals tickets. If I could, I would take the Nats tickets along to the Pearly Gates.

To read all of the author’s suggestions for your “big book,” see the full article here on The Washington Post’s website.