Know Where Important Papers Are

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Throughout our lives we plan for the future. We plan for our high school graduation, college, a new job, marriage, the birth of a baby, buying a house, vacations and more. But often we don't plan for an unexpected crisis.

When things are going well, we don't think about the need to know where our loved one's important papers are located. Yet there is no better time to talk about this than before a crisis happens. Whether they are in perfect health or are dealing with chronic illnesses, by having a conversation with your loved ones now, you will gain peace of mind by knowing that important information is available should you need it.

"Start by making a list of personal information about your loved one," said AARP Arizona State Director David Mitchell. "This list should contain their Social Security number, and the location of important documents like their birth certificate, marriage license and military papers."

The list should also contain the names and phone numbers of doctors, lawyers, emergency contacts as well as insurance information including automobile, homeowners and life insurance. This information should include the company name, contact, policy numbers and location of the documents.

Financial information, such as bank accounts, credit cards and pension records with account numbers and the location of the documents should also be on the list.

"Any medical information should also be a part of the list," Mitchell said, "including the locations for health care power of attorney, a living will or an organ donor card."

RTA Hospice and Palliative Care recommends that individuals have basic advanced care planning documents. They are: the do not resuscitate order (DNR), a living will and a medical power of attorney.

"Your living will is what clarifies the DNR (do not resuscitate)," said hospice chaplain Lynn Richie. "It should be in the possession of your physician, the local hospital, you should carry one with you when you travel. It should be in your possession all the time because if something happens, an automobile accident for instance, nobody knows what your wants are."

"If your loved one doesn't already have these documents or a trusted lawyer who can help with these forms, contact the Arizona Bar Association or Legal Services Network for more information," Mitchell said.

Documents pertaining to final wishes such as wills, burial or cremation arrangements and funeral plans and their locations should also be included on the master list.

"After compiling this information and listing it, make copies, share it with trusted family members and keep the original in a safe place," added Mitchell. "Above all, don't let excuses get in the way of knowing where your loved one's important papers are located."

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