Imagine for a moment that your spouse died suddenly. Would you know what to do?
Do you have all the necessary account information for the banks, insurance policies and medical information? The passwords to access the accounts and the paperwork necessary for filing claims. How about burial and memorial preferences?
Even the thought of losing a loved one is emotional and difficult to imagine. The process of preparing for the worst is overwhelming to the point that we just never get around to it and leave it unfinished.
I was in this exact scenario myself. I can speak directly to how much I wish we had been better prepared. How much less stressful and emotionally traumatizing it would have been if my family had an organized collection of emergency information.
My husband passed away unexpectedly when our son was just 3 ½ years old. I had no account information. In fact, I was never in charge of the bills and everything was in his name. I couldn’t locate important accounts, let alone access them. 10 years later and there is still has an active Facebook account simply because I can’t log in to change it. For months I received threatening calls from the auto dealership and credit card companies. All while trying to process the fact that life as we knew it was forever changed and that my son would never have his father.
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Thankfully the process of preparing for an emergency no longer has to be so overwhelming and stressful. Chelsea over at Smart Money Mamas has created an all-inclusive and easy to navigate In Case Of Emergency (ICE) Binder to make this process so much easier.
In this post I’ll cover the important information you need to include in your own emergency binder, how to put one together and review Chelsea’s ICE Binder.
Contents and Quick Links
What is an emergency binder?
A family emergency binder is a physical binder that includes all the documents, passwords and information that is necessary for both basic household and financial management as well as what to do in the event of an emergency or sudden death in the family. It covers the basics, like a list of accounts and passwords and pet-sitting instructions, all the way down to the core of your family values and how to honor your traditions.
In a nutshell, it provides peace of mind and protection. For you and for your loved ones.
Why do you need an emergency binder?
The last thing I would wish on my loved ones is ongoing stress and emotional turmoil if something were to happen to me.
But, as I’m writing this, no one has any of my information. I am the only one that knows what accounts I have open and how to access them. I am the only one with my insurance info and the knowledge of how to manage a large life insurance payout after I pass away or what online bills I have on auto-pay. No one knows my account passwords.
How will my family manage my estate if I were to get hit by a car and die suddenly next week?
As a single mom, I don’t want to think about these things. But I don’t want anyone else to have to muddle through them because I didn’t. To make things worse, I know better! I’ve been through it myself trying to manage my husband’s affairs when he passed away. Again, I don’t wish that on anyone.
This is why it is so very important to create an emergency binder.
A will and a life insurance policy don’t help your family when they can’t find the policy info, essential paperwork or all of your accounts. But an emergency binder does put all of the information together to save time and emotional turmoil.
What is included in the ICE binder?
There are two main sections to the binder.
The basic section covers:
- Household contact numbers
- Key personal documents: birth certificates, marriage license, social security cards, copies of passports
- Medical information
- Childcare and pet care details
- Insurance documentation and details
- Basic financial information: properties, regular bills (including what’s on auto-pay), cash accounts and credit cards
The need to know section, which you’ll need in the event of a death in the family, covers:
- Where to find original documents and keys
- Employer information
- Social media, email and website logins
- Investment details (including a strategy description, trusted professionals to turn to and what to do with life insurance money)
- Memorial service preferences
- Letters to loved ones
Supplies for your binder
Here is a list of supplies you will need to assemble and organize your binder:
- Binder envelopes for money and important documents
- Waterproof/fireproof safe for protective keeping
In case you don’t already have these, I’ve provided links for your convenience:
Binder dividers with pockets:
Locking file safe:
I believe a heavy duty safe is a really good idea if you have house guests or baby/pet/house sitters. It also offers protection of important documents and valuables from theft, and if you go with a heftier fire and water proof safe, you have added protections from flood and fire.
When to use your binder
Since you probably aren’t sitting around waiting for disaster to strike, you may be wondering when you would actually need to use your binder. Is this just something you spend time creating only to store away and forget about?
No! You will probably rely on your binder often!
The binder includes sections with important password information, sitter information with important contact numbers and other pertinent information for our daily lives.
No longer are you left scrambling to compile all the instructions for the house sitter when you leave town, with the binder you can just pull out the pages the sitter needs and replace them when you return.
Why I recommend the ICE Binder
You can gather all the information you need and organize it neatly. The key here is all the information. You can spend hours searching on Google, calling your family doctors, insurance companies and investment firms to ensure that you have included all the information you need. But you probably won’t. This is why you don’t already have an emergency binder.
No one wants to spend so much time working on something that they don’t want to think about.
Chelsea has already thought about everything. She worked with more than 30 experts to ensure that she didn’t miss anything. Then, she reached out to 30 individuals that had gone through the unexpected. She asked them what they wished they had had at the time to ensure her binder included everything.
The binder includes over 90+ pdf workbook pages, already organized and ready for you to fill in, making this whole process manageable.
Please check it out here.
We don’t want to think about what life would be like after losing a loved one. It is difficult enough to grieve and manage daily life. But it is so much worse to be left scrambling to locate documents, passwords and bills.
Having a family emergency binder provides peace of mind that there won’t be confusion or additional stress in the event that something happens. It takes some time to gather the information, but it is so important. More important than your daily task list. Give yourself, and your family, the protection you hope to never need.
Personally, I am extremely grateful for this resource. I don’t ever want someone else to deal with the aftermath of bill collectors and lost life-insurance policies if something were to happen to me. With just a little time and effort, I can prevent that with a family emergency binder. I have been putting it off for years because it feels overwhelming to even know what to include. But now that I know about Chelsea’s ICE Binder, I plan to download it this week and finally get started.