My resolution for the month of August is to get my “In case of …” file updated. It’s not a difficult task in terms of time and skill, but it is difficult to muster up the motivation to want to work on it. I don’t particularly enjoy thinking about my mortality, and creating an “In case of …” file makes me do exactly that.
To get me through the process, I’ve been repeating the phrase:
This file is proof I love my family.
I have been updating a few contacts and pieces of information each day in the file to keep the load light. Last week, though, I realized that there was one major flaw with my file — it assumes my husband is the one reading it. Obviously, if something were to happen to me, I would hope my husband would be the one to go through the file. Since I spend close to 24 hours a day with my husband, however, there is a better than decent chance that if something happens to me that it will likely happen to him, too. (Again, not a thought I really want to have, but I am trying to be mature and responsible.)
In addition to updating my current file, I realized I need to make a second file to seal up and give to someone else — like my lawyer or parents or both. If something awful were to happen to both my husband and me, I most certainly would want there to be an “In case of …” file appropriate for someone other than my spouse to read. The information in this second file will need to be more precise, and include specific details I don’t have to explain to my husband since he knows so many details about my life.
Let me be clear, this information I’m collecting for the “In case of …” file is in addition to a Last Will and Testament. These files aren’t about asset distribution or anything of massive importance. The contents of these files are things like the Netflix account cancellation information and the telephone numbers for my alumni associations. If something awful were to happen, I don’t want the people in my life to be stressed trying to take care of the little details.
If you haven’t created this type of file before, start by paying attention to the mail you receive, the calls you make, and the bills you pay. Do you receive any magazine subscriptions? Do you get any newsletters? Do you make donations to charities? Who is your daughter’s violin teacher? Are you a member of any clubs? What company picks up your trash? Do you use a snow removal service? Are you part of a CSA delivery? Do you deliver meals to the elderly once a week? It might take you a month to collect a valuable set of data, but it’s definitely worth it.
Another strategy to consider when making these lists is to pretend to be a stranger trying to take over your life. What would this person have to learn and understand to succeed?
The final point I want to make about all of this is protecting this information. You do not want this file to end up in the wrong hands, so be extremely careful with it. Storing the document in a waterproof safe that is bolted to the floor is an excellent idea. Hiding it under a false name in a filing cabinet, but giving the file name to a few trusted loved ones might even be all it takes (criminals tend to look for paper files like “Passwords” and “Vital Docs,” not “Cat Vet Bills — Paid”). Criminals also tend to take entire laptops and computers instead of specific files, so intensely password protect and encrypt any data files you may store on your computer. And, as someone who had her files stolen in a very bizarre case of corporate espionage more than a decade ago, I can personally attest to your office NOT being a good place to store personal documents.
Do you have an “In case of …” file put together yet? What is keeping you from putting one together? Do you need to create two — one for your significant other and one for someone you trust completely, but who lives outside your home?