Sometimes, we need official documents, documented permission (or both) to get things done. We need "proof".
When we were preparing for my father’s death, we couldn’t find his marriage certificate or military discharge records. Not surprising, since it had been over the forty years since he’d needed either document.
But these official papers were so important to unlocking services.
The marriage certificate would be used as proof to ensure my mom continued to get spousal insurance benefits and my father’s higher social security income. The military discharge papers allowed us to arrange for an honor guard to appear at his memorial service — one of the very few requests he made.
Finding out we needed these specific documents saved us a lot of stress when my father passed away. If we hadn’t requested copies ahead of time, we would have had to rush around in the days after his death (and before his service) to get them.
While it is becoming easier to get vital documents online, I promise tracking down paperwork is not how you want to spend your time after someone you care about has become ill, had an accident, or died.
Information needs differ depending on the role you’ve asked someone to play in your end of life care. Here are examples of documents your decision makers may need in order to represent you and access services on your behalf.
Your medical decision maker may need your:
Your financial decision maker may need some or all of the following:
NOTE: If you have a Life in Motion Guide, you can document all of this in the Inventory section of the book. If you don’t have one, no problem. See below for information on how to get a free document inventory checklist.
In most cases, a copy will be acceptable with the notable exception of legal documents. Make sure your delegates have access to the original power of attorney, healthcare power of attorney, and will or trust documents. Have some of your documents been lost, stolen, or destroyed in a disaster? This government site has information on what to do if you need to replace vital documents.
Where Should You Store Important Documents?
The short answer: you can store these records anywhere you feel they’re safe and accessible in case of an emergency (that means not in a bank safe deposit, and that means not in a “secret” location.) For the full answer, and a link to a complete, categorized inventory of documents, see my article Where to Store Important Documents.