My Doomsday Book

25 Feb

I have a Doomsday Book.  It’s not fancy.  It’s just a three-ring binder with page protectors.  Documents fill the page protector.

Whenever I have a surgery or am undergoing anesthesia, the Doomsday Book moves from the cabinet containing my important papers to the island in the kitchen.  The move allows ease of access although daughter knows where it resides.

Unlike The Doomsday Book ordered by William the Conqueror that surveyed the “underlying structure of England” (Churchill, 1956, p. 127), mine includes a statement of my final wishes and financial affairs such as

  • Durable Health Care Power of Attorney
  • Living Will
  • Durable Special Powers of Attorney in the event of my incapacity
  • Pre-Paid Funeral Plan and obituary outline including contact information (There will be no gathering of the family at the funeral home to select casket, etc. It’s already done.)
  • Evidence of my military service (DD-214)
  • Instructions for burial at sea
  • A copy of my Last Will and Testament with contact information my attorney (Upon notice of my death, the attorney knows what to do.)
  • A copy of my inter vivos (living or loving) trust including a list of all property already transferred into the trust and contact information for my attorney and my successor trustee (Upon notice of my death, my attorney and successor trustee know what to do.)
  • Life Insurance Policies (active and in force) with contact information
  • The latest financial statement for me personally and for my inter vivos trust (This includes bank and brokerage information.)
  • Directions to locate and access my passwords
  • The location of Safe Deposit Box keys
  • Any special instructions and final messages
    • Scholarship Opportunities like the United States Navy League Scholarship
    • Service instructions

The underlying principle was KISS – Keep It Simple Stupid.  I wanted all the important documents in one place with contact information.  Disability and/or death is stressful enough on the survivors without requiring them to wander through a morass of documents looking for these things.  It’s simply common sense and preparation.  It’s lifting a burden from the family that they shouldn’t have to shoulder.  I’m even considering giving my attorney a copy of the Doomsday Book.

I’m not worried about creditors.  The bills will continue to arrive.  If I’m dead, my attorney and the executor of my estate can handle those.  If I’m incompetent to handle my own affairs, my power of attorney kicks in.

Everyone should have a plan.  If they don’t, typically the state imposes one either through the intestacy process in the event of death or through guardianship proceedings in the event of incompetency.  It’s your choice.

I’ve encountered clients who are meticulous in their financial affairs but who won’t even consider having a last will and testament because that means that they are going to die.  I have difficulty understanding their reasoning.  They won’t begin a project until every “I” is dotted and every “T” is crossed with a written contract that spells out expectations, requirements, and consequences and includes a project management calendar identifying commencement and completion dates with important progress dates clearly indicated; yet, their death will leave their family lost in the wilderness with no plan whatsoever.  I don’t want that to happen to my family; therefore, I have a plan and a Doomsday Book.

Reference

Churchill, W. S. (1956). A History of the English-Speaking Peoples: The Birth of Britain. New York: Dodd, Mead & Company, Inc.

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