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Why you need a survivor file

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Just about everyone needs a Survivor File, a folder that contains all the information on your finances that family and friends need in case you die or become incapacitated. Most people do not like to talk about death and dying so you might call it the "Hit By a Truck File."

Older folk need to take the initiative and start the process. Younger people also should have a Survivor File. The younger generation should talk to parents about the parents' survivor file.

After you put together your Survivor File, you must tell someone where it is. It also is a good idea to sit down with your survivors and go over what is in the file.

One gentleman in his 70's recently paid for his two daughters to fly in from around the country to go over his Survivor File. He had everything neatly typed up with contact information on financial accounts, safety deposit contents, a list of real property and personal property, insurance policies, U.S. Government benefits, and a list of important personal contacts. He even had a hand-drawn sketch of his desk showing where each item could be found.

A grandmother is her 60's uses a book called "What My Family Needs to Know." She has found over the years that the information must be updated frequently. Her daughter and son-in-law know the information is stored in a fire-proof box, and they know exactly where the key is. It gives grandma peace of mind to know her family understands what to do when she is no longer around.

Another senior took the opportunity of a visit by his son to review his Survivor File, which in his case is a 'work in progress.' His plan is to consolidate all financial accounts and change beneficiaries so each family member will receive one account. He has decided not to leave money to the three grandchildren directly because experience has shown that children in their teens and 20's should not have direct access to money without close supervision.

Two final points: No matter what your age, you should have a Survivor File. And never count on an inheritance because anything can happen.

Also read 'Dying with debt - how to resolve a deceased person's debt.'

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