If your parent suddenly required long term care in a nursing home tomorrow, do you know what paperwork you would need and where to get it? If you were in an accident tomorrow and required long term care services, or worse were killed, does your family know where everything is? Do they know about every insurance policy and bank account? Even that little Christmas club account. or that $1,000 life insurance policy that you?ve nearly forgotten about yourself?

Whether you?re 18 or 80, having all of your key documents together is one of the best things you can do for yourself and your family. This doesn?t mean every bank statement from every account, but it does mean being organized so nothing is missed. The key documents I suggest you gather together are the documents that would be required for you (or your parent) to apply for Medicaid. If you have everything Medicaid requires, you?ll have everything you need for just about every emergency.

When someone applies for Medicaid, they are required to prove who they are, what they own, what they owe, sources and amounts of income, expenses (particularly if a spouse is still at home), and provide Power of Attorney and / or Guardianship paperwork.

This is the digital age, so if you have access to a printer and scanner, a digital copy is great.

For a younger person, or someone in good health, the digital copies may be enough. Be sure to give a copy to your Power of Attorney. Even if you do store these documents electronically, you may still need hard copies readily available to carry with you. For instance, in the case of your parents or someone you know that may need long term care soon. You will need the documents easily stored to carry with you. I recommend using a [banner]three ring binder, or an expandable file. Keep the binder or file organized by using?plastic sleeves so holes don?t have to be punched in each page. This will also keep the documents from wrinkling or tearing, so they are easier to copy if need be. Use dividers to divide the sections in a way that makes sense to you. I recommend dividing it into the following sections: Documents that identify youHealth insurance documentsIncomeAssets (you may have sub sections ? one for bank accounts, one for real estate, etc)TaxesExpensesLegal (Power of Attorney, Guardianship documents, wills, etc)

If the Life Folder is being established for someone who doesn?t believe their Power of Attorney?will need these documents any time soon I would recommend the following:

Copies of all identifying documents (driver?s license, social security card, etc)Copies of all insurance cardsA list of all sources of income ? employer name and address, account numbers for interest income and name of institution distributing this incomeAssets ? a list of all assets owned, account numbers and other pertinent information regarding these assets.? The goal is to describe the asset well enough for your Power of Attorney to know exactly what you own.Taxes ? Keep a list of taxes you pay on a regular basis with the identifying account number, such as real estate, how they are paid, to whom, etc.Expenses ? Prepare a list of all loans and include the account number, payment amount, due date, who the payment is made to, etc.? Also, prepare a list of your household utility companies and any other expenses you pay regularly.Legal ? Keep a copy of all of your legal documents (Power of Attorney, wills, etc)Life Insurance ? Prepare a document that includes account numbers, amount of policies, who the beneficiaries are, name of the insurance company, etc.

As you can see, the information that you keep in your Life Folder won?t take up a great deal of room.? Most information will be kept in a list format.? The goal is to make sure your bills continue to be paid and all income continues to be received?in case of an unexpected crisis.

Several years ago, a friend of mine’s sister-in-law died suddenly.? She was only 53 years old. She had handled all of the finances for herself and her husband.? She kept a Life Folder. In addition to all the required documents, she included little notes of encouragement for her husband, and notes telling him how much he meant to her.?He only read these after she was gone. He said those notes helped him to get through some of the dark days he had after her death. Another great reason to have a Life Folder.

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