Have you ever thought about who would manage your affairs and how they would deal with the finances in the case of an emergency?
Thankfully, most “crises” while overwhelming and challenging can be managed. But now and again, people face emergency situations that could have, would have and should have been managed better – if only they’d been better prepared and created a family emergency plan.
Why you need a family emergency plan
When I think about our personal situation, the number of children we have (thank G-d!) and the number of financial accounts we own, I know it would take someone quite a while to sort it all out by themselves. Which is why we need an updated family emergency plan to direct and guide someone who might have to step in during a crisis. G-d forbid.
None of us plans to become incapacitated or to pass away unexpectedly. But unfortunately, these things happen. So it’s crucial that you pull together all your important information, documents, and instructions and collect them in one central place. This helps alleviate stress and anxiety. And enables your loved ones to take over without having to search frantically for phone numbers and bank accounts.
Who manages the accounts in your family?
In our family, I manage most of the bills, bank accounts, investments, insurances, pensions, taxes and more. My husband does less of the financial admin stuff. He tracks our income and ensures that we give at least 10% to charitable causes (tzedakah). And he files all the paperwork. Most importantly, he’s the behind-the-scenes “motivator” who makes me update our family emergency plan periodically so someone can step in and cover for us in a crisis.
But if truth be told, I’m not as good at this as I should be. I store too much of our sensitive information in my brain. And our digital files are “somewhere” on the computer. I can access them in a jiffy, but I don’t think Jonathan could get to them as quickly.
So, before I flew to the States last month, we sat together and I updated Jonathan on all our account information, contact people, phone numbers and passwords.
I think our family’s division of labor is pretty common. One of the partners, like me, tends to handle more of the financial and administrative responsibilities. That means that the other partner could face an administrative and financial nightmare in an emergency.
What happens if you’re single?
If you’re single or living on your own, you also need a family emergency plan. A dear friend or family member needs to know how to access your vital information so she can step in and support you if you can’t do it for yourself.
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How do you create a Family Emergency Plan
My best suggestion for creating a family emergency plan is the In Case of Emergency (ICE) Binder, created by Chelsea Brennan. In this 100+ page workbook, you record everything that anybody would ever need to know so they could step in take care of you and manage your family in an emergency.
The ICE Binder includes several sets of worksheets to record all of your important financial, medical and legal information. You download the fillable PDF document to your computer and you have three options:
1. You can fill in all of your vital information directly onto the worksheets and save them on your computer. You can choose to keep them on your hard drive or save them on a cloud. Personally, I’m not keen on this option. I think it’s too risky to have such sensitive information so easily available to hackers.
2. My preference is to print out a blank version of the ICE Binder and to fill in the worksheets by hand. Put the sheets in a 3-ring or 2-ring binder and store it in a safe place. I like the idea of putting the binder on a bookshelf in one of my kid’s rooms. It will look like just another school notebook. And anyone can grab the binder quickly and access information in an emergency.
3. In addition, I recommend scanning your worksheets and saving them on a flash drive. Store the flash drive in a fireproof safe and/or with a trusted family member. Make sure that someone knows the combination to your safe or knows where you keep the key.
What do you record on the worksheets?
On the worksheets, you record all of your vital information. This includes a detailed contact list for family members, friends, and neighbors. Plus, the medical, financial and legal professionals you work with. You’ll record the details of your financial accounts and insurance policies; including account numbers, policy numbers, phone numbers, contact people and customer service representatives.
There are worksheets that cover your monthly bills. You make a note of which ones get paid automatically on auto-pay and which ones you pay manually. This ensures (hopefully) that your bank account doesn’t run dry when bills get paid automatically and your lights don’t get shut off because the electric company hasn’t been paid.
You can keep a copy of your Will in the Binder, making sure that someone knows where the original is held – and where the key to the safe is. And the binder includes forms for Powers of Attorney so someone can legally step in and act in your place if you become incapacitated. Make sure to check with a lawyer to ensure that the Power of Attorney document in the binder complies with the law in your state and country.
What about the children?
Your family emergency plan must cover the care of your children and possible custodians “just in case.” Now that our children are older and three of our kids are married with kids of their own, this is no longer an issue for us. But years ago, we had “the talk” with some of our closest couples/friends in Israel asking if they would be willing to raise our children if we were no longer around.
The ICE Binder goes deep into childcare. It includes favorites foods, allergies, medical issues, best friends and their phone numbers and favorite activities. As a mom of many, I really appreciate the depth and comprehensiveness of these worksheets.
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Caring for pets
Pet owners also need a family emergency plan. In the days before my mom passed away, and for a few days afterward, my brother cared for her dog Rainey. Then, a friend of my mom’s took Rainey and gave her a new, loving home.
Keep the name and phone number of your vet in your Emergency Binder. Plus, records of the shots your pet has had, food issues, and any medical conditions. This will make caring for them so much easier in a crisis.
Can’t I just do this myself?
There’s a lot of information in the ICE Binder, but you might want to go and gather it all yourself. Well, the truth is that none of the information in the ICE Binder is new. If you spend time and energy researching online, you’ll probably come up with everything you need.
The benefit of buying a product like this is that you save time and energy by getting everything in one place.
Chelsea Brennan, the creator of the In Case of Emergency Binder, spent hours and hours speaking with professionals, asking questions, getting answers and collating information. She meticulously thought through every detail of what someone might need should they have to step in and take over for you in a crisis – down to your kids’ favorite foods.
While you can do the work yourself, let’s be honest, you probably won’t. Either you’ll be an optimist and assume nothing will ever happen (ahem, that’s me). Or you’ll avoid the topic altogether because you don’t like dealing with these uncomfortable and messy parts of life.
Or perhaps, like most of us, you’re busy and over-committed. So even if you decide you’re going to collect all the information by yourself, the task is pretty likely to get pushed down your to-do list.
Make it easy for yourself. The research has already been done. The workbook is broken down into easy to follow sections. Get everything you need to create your family emergency plan in one place – the In Case of Emergency Binder.
Nobody plans to become incapacitated or pass away unexpectedly. And wouldn’t it be nice if we always had warning signs and time to prepare?!
But that’s not always how it works. Life happens. And sometimes it’s very stressful.
If someone needs to care for you in an emergency or wind up your affairs after you die, you can make it easier for them. The In Case of Emergency (ICE) Binder will save your family and loved ones time, money and heartache. Wouldn’t you prefer to gift them less stress and more peace of mind?