As you consider all the “what ifs” of your life, you should also consider what you can do to lessen the trauma that some of life’s unexpected events and major transitions can impose. Planning ahead to deal with problems is the best thing you can do right now, and having a team of caring family members and friends who would be available to assist you in crisis situations can offer a great deal of peace of mind.
Your Team Members
As you build your response team, think of the people in your life whom you would trust to make decisions for you. It may be your spouse, your adult children, your siblings, your niece or nephew, your best friend. You might have a response team of one or two people, or you might assign responsibilities to several people. One person may be an excellent choice to make health care decisions, and someone else may be an obvious choice for financial decision making. You may want to assign someone to coordinate efforts if you are unable to do so. The important considerations are that members of your response team know you well enough to understand your personal values and preferences and that they be willing to take on the responsibilities you wish them to handle. Be sure to have conversations with each team member about what you would want them to do for you and to provide them with the information, documents, and authority they would need to assist in your care.
Several areas of your life would benefit from the assistance of members of your Response Team. If you were unable to make decisions for your health care due to major illness, accident, or injury, you should have a person who is designated your Health Care Power of Attorney. This person would be aware of your preferences for health care interventions and be able to make decisions authorizing treatment if you cannot. You might also have a person whom you designate as your Financial Power of Attorney who would be authorized to make decisions regarding your financial affairs, from paying bills to overseeing your business interests or your investments portfolio. Remember also to have someone who will provide care for your spouse or dependent children, if needed. You might even want to have a care plan for your home and pets that would help ease your mind if you should be hospitalized or disabled for an extended period of time.
As you build your response team, make sure they have access to all the documents and information they would need. Power of attorney documents are important, and you may want someone to have knowledge of any checking, savings, credit card, and other account information. They should also know where to access copies of your health and life insurance information as well as your funeral preplanning, and your will and other estate planning documents. One way to make sure you have all this information readily available for those who would need it is to create a Peace of Mind Box and store it in a location where it would be available. And don’t forget to let members of your response team know where the box is located. You can get started on your document gathering with our Peace of Mind Box Checklist available here.