Organizing: Getting Your Ducks In A Row


Being Responsible Is Not Always Fun

by Barb Berman~As I write this article on preparing for the future, I can’t help but think how many of us are in a similar situation. I realize there are many things out of our control and that we should not even worry about them, but the one thing we can control is organizing and making sure we have all the information we need about our friends and family upon their deaths.

This is definitely not one of those topics which we like to talk about, but being prepared will save a lot of time and stress when we have to take care of all the financial matters that come with this stage of life. This pertains to all ages – you may have parents, elderly relatives, or friends for whom you are responsible, and/or you may have children, siblings, or friends that need to know about your information.

My 97 ½ -year old father lives at home with full-time help now. Several years ago he had a stroke, and although he is still somewhat mentally acute, he was more so, when we had to gather all this information. Although it had been a bit challenging, it was not as difficult as it could have been had he not started compiling all this information many years ago.

My father started his list that he called his “autobiography”. Using his list and finding out what other information is also needed, I compiled the following. Some of it may pertain to you and some may not, but I made it as inclusive as possible.

  • Birthdate, social security number, home telephone number, cell phone number, driver’s license number, and passport number with the issue date and expiration date.
  • Email address and password.
  • Credit card names and numbers.
  • Health insurance policies and numbers (both Medicare and supplemental medical, as well as long-term care) and all related contact information such as addresses and phone numbers.
  • Auto insurance policy number and contact phone numbers.
  • Homeowner’s insurance policy number and contact phone numbers.
  • Life insurance policy numbers and contact phone numbers.
  • Veteran’s information, including anything on a pension and the discharge papers.
  • Banking and other financial information, including account numbers and contact phone numbers and addresses. This includes the safety deposit box number and where the key is located and all the login information and passwords.
  • Accountant’s name and contact information.
  • Lawyer’s name and contact information.
  • And, last but not least, the cemetery information.

You would think I would be totally prepared for when the time comes, but believe it or not, I have put an inordinate amount of time in now making sure I understand everything and what I am going to have to do in the future. I realize I am very fortunate my father is around to guide me through this maze. Could I have done it without him? Without a doubt, but it would have been that much harder and certainly at a time when I am going to be very sad.

Create an Excel spreadsheet to keep track of this information. You can even hand-write everything on paper.

One other thing I’d like to mention is that if you do not have to do this alone, don’t. You may have siblings, other family members, and/or friends who are involved. If possible, decide who could be doing what. This can help so it doesn’t all have to fall on your shoulders. Of course, it is easier if everyone lives in the area and you all get along, but it might be useful to at least have the conversation. You won’t know until you try.

These are not fun conversations to have, and when we do, I always ask my father if he is going somewhere soon (he tells me no). It is part of being a responsible adult. I now know that I have to get my own information organized as well for that person who needs to do for me what I am doing for my father.

Have any other pieces of information you would like to add to this list? Please share with all of us.

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About Barbara Berman

Certified Professional Organizer ®, is the owner of BB’s Clutter Solutions. She decided to take what comes naturally to her, share these skills with those who want to become and stay organized, and founded her company in 2007. Her corporate background, which includes over 25 years of managing project teams, combined with her degree in social work from Syracuse University, led her to the world of professional organizing.  Barbara is an active member of the National Association of Professional Organizers and of her local NAPO chapter – Greater Philadelphia. She is also affiliated with the Institute for Challenging Disorganization.

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