Important Document Organization Can Save Time, Money and Grief

Consumer Reports’ blog had a great article today about having your documents  organized in case of emergency.  I’m reproducing their included table here and linking to them.  I figure if maybe I link enough times they won’t ask me to remove it.

The  good news is that I already do most of this.  Spending so many y ears as an insurance agent I saw the value in these preparations.   Something I also recommended that I don’t see here is a written and video inventory of your possessions, including as much detail as possible (where bought, how  much paid) expecially for the big ticket items.

TYPE OF STORAGE DOCUMENT(S) KEEP A COPY? WHERE TO STORE DUPLICATE?
SAFE-DEPOSIT BOX Birth and death certificates; marriage license; adoption, citizenship, divorce papers Yes Home file
Inventory and photos of household property Yes Home file
Deeds, titles, bills of sale, car title, mortgage Yes Home file
List of location of important papers Yes Home file
HOME FILE CABINET Tax returns; supporting documents for past 3 to 7 years No
Passport No
Bank-account information Yes Friend’s or relative’s home or at your office
Insurance policies No
List of all assets, including brokerage and mutual-fund accounts, stocks, bonds, bank accounts, real property, and employee-benefit accounts Yes Friend’s or relative’s home or at your office
ATTORNEY’S OFFICE Will, durable power of attorney Yes Home file and executor or personal representative
Funeral instructions Yes Friend or relative
Living will, health-care power of attorney Yes Home file, physician, personal representative
Location of safe-deposit box Yes Joint owner, friend, or relative
WALLET Driver’s license or other photo I.D. yes Home file
Auto insurance card Yes In car
Emergency contacts No
Blood type, list of allergies, medications No

I don’t know about you, but I know it would help calm me in the time of an emergency to know that much of the information I need is safe and sound, organized and easily accessible.  And when we lose someone we love our grief is tempered slightly by the knowledge that they cared enough to prepare and make the logistics of dealing with the aftermath as easy as possible.

Go forth and organize!

Shame on you, Citibank

Between 1992 and 2003, Citibank operated an “automatic sweeping” program that would without notice remove positive balances from customers’ credit card accounts—mainly those of the poor and the recently deceased—and pocketing the money. Now it’s been ordered to pay back $14 million dollars to the affected customers, plus another $3.5 million in penalties to California, thanks to California Attorney General Edmund G. Brown Jr..

According to the article, in July of 2001 a Citibank employee uncovered the practice and brought it to the attention of his superiors. The employee was later fired for discussing the credit sweeps with an internal audit team. Niiiiiiiiiiice.

In one of the most outrageous examples of gargantuan kahunas and at the same time an obvious effort to win the Biggest Asshat of the Year contest, one executive apparently said (according to the press release of the California Attorney General), “Stealing from our customers is a business decision, not a legal decision.” The same executive later said that the sweep program could not be stopped because it would reduce the executive bonus pool.

And we wonder why the average American hates corporations.

So now Citibank has to pay back the money (they say they’ve already started). And their penalty for stealing from their customers?

Well, the state gets $3.5 million. And they should.

The affected customers? They get the amount that was stolen plus 10% interest.

Ten percent?

This was a broad conspiracy to commit theft, and abuse of fiduciary responsibility! It wasn’t a corporation that made this decision, it was flesh and blood men and women who made a decision to abuse their position of trust for their own profit. The executives responsible should be prosecuted criminally for their deeds.

And the whistleblower should be compensated handsomely. Unlike Citibank customers.

A ten percent penalty? That’s barely interest on a loan, and this was no loan. This wasn’t punishment. Forget “slap on the wrist”. This is more like a light breeze, without even enough power to make the hair on their wrists move. Gee, that will make Citibank and others who have engaged in this same type of deception quiver. Methinks there is the sound of laughter, popping corks and the tinkle of champagne glasses being clinked going on in the Citibank boardroom this week.

Attorney General Bob Butterworth, are you listening? Did this happen here in Florida, too? If so, I hope you pursue it.

And I hope you make Citibank really pay.

Don’t Let the Dust Settle Before the Dust Settles

Most people don’t know they’re about to die. Even if we understand that we’ll not live forever, we’re thinking our date with destiny is years in the future.

So, many of us don’t talk about life insurance. We don’t talk about about writing a will. We don’t set up trusts for our children. We procrastinate partially because of time, partially because of money, but mostly, I think, because we just don’t want to think about what it will be like when we’re not here, what we’ll miss and what life will be like for those we leave behind.

We need to do it anyway. And once you go through the time, expense and emotional upheaval, be sure to revisit it yearly and go through it all over again. Otherwise you may wind up like Heath Ledger, who died suddenly and unexpectedly, never having updated his will after his daughter Matilda was born.

So, now Matilda will have to rely on the kindness of her grandparents and aunt to receive father’s financial legacy. I’m sure Heath would not have wanted it that way, and I’m confident his family will abide his wishes, at least as best they can.

But it would have been so much easier for everyone if Heath had just updated his will.

So, if you haven’t communicated your final wishes, and put it down on paper, please do. And if you already have everything in order, please review it today. And review it whenever there’s a change in your circumstances. And once a year anyway.

It’s worth doing.

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