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How to Prepare For The Unthinkable

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Your own death or emergency situation isn't the easiest thing to prepare for, but every mom should be prepared, especially if she's parenting alone as a single mom.

Too often, we hide our fears and feelings so we can appear strong. We push aside that morbid question: What if something happened to me? What would my family do? Would they know what I want, what my children's needs are, or even where the keys for my second car are located?

Two of my sons are already adults, but we haven't talked about my wishes or about who can help them in the event that something should happen to me. They don't even know whether I want to be buried or cremated.

In today's uncertain world, we can't prepare for everything, but take a few minutes and start writing your own list of what your family need to know to keep things running smoothly without you. You'll be surprised at the amount of peace of mind you'll find just knowing there's a backup plan for your family.

There are many resources online to help you prepare, but you should begin with a basic letter that contains a list of the important facets of your life, identifying who you want to be in charge of everything. In your letter, include your will and/or living will if you have one, any trust information for minor children if it applies, and a power of attorney giving legal permission for someone else to act on your behalf.

Although there are probably dozens of things you'll need to let your family know, here are a few ideas of things you shouldn't leave out:

  • Passwords for all your devices. It's essential that whoever is in charge has access to your devices to retrieve any information from them that might be needed later. Include passwords to all websites you use or own, your social media accounts, and anything else used on your devices that may require a password to access.
  • Documents for minor children. Birth certificates, medical, dental and school records are all things a caregiver may need in your absence. Include a list of contact information for after-school care and other routine appointments and extra-curricular activities (such as therapist, dance, coaches, and so on) to minimize other disruptions.
  • How to care for pets. My Siberian Husky is just about as important as my children, so his medical and vaccination records are important for whomever will care for him.
  • Financial information. If something happens, the person in charge would need to know each and every source of income from automatic deposits from my employer to any expected payments for contract work to any other miscellaneous income such as child support.
  • Bank account information. List out the account numbers and passwords for every account, plus information about which accounts are linked. Any investment accounts and retirement accounts should be listed out as well. If any of your accounts have beneficiatres, that should be noted as well. If you have a safe deposit box, include the name and location of bank, as well as the number of the box, a list of what's in it, and where the key is located.
  • Information about any debts. As hard as it might be to have anyone know of all your debts, there should be one general place where all the information is organized and listed. Your car loan and title, mortgage, utilities, car insurance, payment programs for kids, tuition, cell phone — everything you owe money on or that you get billed monthly for should be accessible in one place.
  • Charitable organizations. List out which charities or organizations should receive your personal belongings or other donations. You may feel strongly (as I do) about what happenings to your personal belongings. I know where I want my possessions to go, and I don't want to see my house turned into a swap meet.
  • Funeral services. It is vital that whomever is in charge knows what your final wishes are. For example, I want to be buried at a small town in Louisiana — the hometown of my mother's family and where most of our ancestors are buried. It may sound random, but it's a special place for me.
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