Ask the Expert: Be Prepared.

Question: My Dad was hospitalized last month. My brother and I attempted to step in and assist with managing the house and bills, until he was feeling stronger. We quickly learned that while we were aware of his medical directives and my dad had things carefully planned out, there was a lot about his “business” we didn’t know. How can we be better prepared if this happens again, without totally invading his privacy?

Answer: Quarantine is the perfect time to get your affairs in order! Young or old, it applies to all of us.

One of the best gifts you can leave your adult children (or spouse) is the gift of organization. It can be very difficult to go to into a parent’s home and gather the information needed to pull together the pieces when a loved one is no longer able to manage daily affairs or has passed away.

Think about yourself for a moment, who would know your accounts, passwords, policies etc. How difficult would it be for a loved one to step into your shoes? How many policies go unclaimed because no one knew they even existed?

One of the best ways to organize information is to write it down. There are some great planning guides available to help accomplish this. The benefit to filling out a guide, is that it can be kept in a safe place, until the information is needed. This enables him to maintain some privacy, but if a crisis occurs, you would know where to look.

Legal directives are equally important for decision making authority, but the planning guide can help you find all the pieces. Here are some things a typical guide would cover:

  • Personal information and data
  • Medial and professional information
  • Health insurance policies and numbers
  • Advisors and professionals you work with
  • Assets and account information
  • Identification/location of important legal and personal documents
  • Online account information
  • What to do in the event of death
  • My memories and wishes
  • Pet information
  • Vehicle information
  • Contact information that may be needed

It’s a process to gather and maintain this data, but it is so important in times of crisis or death, that loved ones be able to access and use it to carry out your wishes.

Amy Natt, MS, CMC, CSA

Ask the Expert is a monthly column where we answer questions on how to successfully navigate aging issues. The community is invited to send questions to