When Mike died suddenly and unexpectedly Sally, his wife of over 30 years, was overcome not just with grief, but also with panic. Not only did she lose her best friend and soul mate, Mike had always been the family money manager. While Sally knew they were financially comfortable, in the shock of her sudden loss she had no idea how she was going to cope with her new situation.
Fortunately, Sally and Mike’s adult daughter, Melanie, was able to relieve some of that stress. “Don’t you remember, Mum? Dad often reminded us that if anything happened to him we should look for the ‘In Case of Emergency’ folder in his study.”
The folder was soon located and with it a great weight was lifted from Sally’s shoulders. It contained:
- A copy of their Wills and contact details for the legal firm where the originals were stored.
- Originals of their powers of attorney.
- Contact details for their accountant and financial planner.
- A list summarising their personal insurance policies and instructions on where to find the details in the filing cabinet.
- Details of their private health insurance, power, gas and Internet providers and payment methods.
- Contact details for their super funds.
- A list of their non-superannuation investments and directions on where to find the details on Mike’s computer.
- A list of bank accounts and credit cards, and a note summarising the purpose of each account.
- Instructions on how to access his computer and passwords. Mike used a secure password management program that allowed an emergency contact – Melanie in Mike’s case – to gain access to his passwords unless he rejected her request.
- A contact list that included close and extended family, clients (Mike was a self-employed business consultant), and other key contacts.
While all the important files were automatically backed up online and, thanks to the password manager, now available to Melanie, Mike also maintained a hard copy of the In Case of Emergency folder to give Sally and Melanie certainty of access and some protection against technology glitches.
No amount of preparation could spare Sally and Melanie their deep and profound grief. However, Mike’s forethought made their lives significantly easier at such a difficult time.
Where’s your ‘In Case of Emergency’ file?
Even when a couple both know the what, when and how of family finances, creating and maintaining an In Case of Emergency (ICE) file is still a good idea. It can help prevent important information being overlooked at a time of great stress. If both members of a couple die or become incapacitated an ICE file will be invaluable to an alternate executor or family members.
Your ICE file can be as simple or as complex as your financial affairs. The most important things are:
- that you create an ICE file,
- that you ensure the appropriate people, such as the executors named in your Will and other family members, know where to find it, and
- that they can access relevant files while maintaining a high level of Internet security.
While discussions related to death or disability can be difficult to initiate, compare that to the consequences of not having the discussion. Doesn’t your family deserve the peace of mind of knowing where to find your ICE file?