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Your "Oh My God!" File - Who Can Access It? What's In It?

Your "Oh My God!" File - Who Can Access It? What's In It?

| July 09, 2020

Executive Summary ACCESS - Paper, Digital or Combination


  1. Who do you want to have access?
  2. More than one person?
  3. Different people for different documents?


Paper Access is useful and maybe critical but more cumbersome and simply less accessible. "My / Our Attorney" has the documents is acceptable, maybe necessary depending on your situation and laws of your jurisdictions, but not enough - not sufficient. Some items on the list are financial or health care. Unless your attorney also happens to hold other positions (which I personally don't care for and I feel is a potential conflict of interest) then your Power Holders each need their own (paper and / or digital) copies of the Powers they hold, i.e. financial and medical. As well as other documents, e.g. Advance Directive or LOI for Health Proxy and many financial documents for Durable POA.


I have felt for a long time that digital is useful all the way up to critical. Simplest if you use a secure email. (I'm told gmail is but check it out ... ) Email digital copies of needed documents to yourself. Create a separate file in your email. Then you can potentially access a document from anywhere, e.g. while traveling (we can only hope, post-pandemic.) from a loved one's home, a hospital or other medical facility, etc.

Document Security

Clients and other interest readers might already know it is NOT recommended to email a document with any PI - Personal Info - including all the usual numbers especially. If your email is already secure and you are using digital or a combination for access, you are good. I would NOT be a big fan of keeping PI-laden (e.g. financial) documents with account numbers in a paper file, even if under lock & key. Account numbers could be manually blocked or such, but you'll need to keep updating your financial documents. A 4-year old financial statement might not be very useful.

Docubank - My Personal Experience

I had a minor same day procedure that did entail my being lightly anesthetized. I have my own highly personal views on all this stuff. Including not wanting to simply sign the forms that Medical Provider asked me to sign. Instead I gave them my Docubank card. Then Docubank faxed them MY documents and we were good. I pay a small membership fee to Docubank. I keep my membership renewed. Docubank does not pay me for saying this. Maybe there are other services out there. Please let me know if you have used another one you liked!

PS: / FYI: My Docubank card is 2 full sides. I did not show the other side. It has my own PI and also the name and contact info - phone numbers - of my Health Care POA (Power Holder.)

Executive Summary Content

  1. POA - Financial Power of Attorney
  2. POA - Health aka Health Care Proxy
  3. "Five Wishes" or similar Advanced Directive
  4. Beneficiary Designation Forms
  5. Will
  6. Trust if exists
  7. Ethical Will
  8. Personal LOI - Letter of Instruction -
  9. Funeral Instruction and Whom To Contact List
  10. Family Conversation w Notes
  11. Document Checklist (see attachment)

Content ... 

1. A will. This important set of instructions directs who inherits assets that you own individually but with no beneficiary listed. A will also designates a guardian for minors and appoints an executor to administer your estate after your death. You’ll want to keep the signed original in a secure place, known to your family or your executor aka Personal Representative.

2. Powers of attorney. You’ll need two types of power of attorney, or POA—one financial, the other medical. The financial POA names someone you trust to help manage your financial affairs. You can control the timing of when it goes into effect and when it lapses.

You also need a durable power of attorney for health care. This POA appoints someone to make medical decisions for you, if you can’t make them yourself. You should discuss both these documents with the people you’re assigning, so they understand your wishes. Both documents no longer have any legal standing upon your death.

3. Beneficiaries named and documented. If you have a beneficiary listed on an asset, that almost always trumps what your will says, so the asset goes directly to the beneficiary and doesn’t go through probate. This is an area where many people mess up: Make sure your beneficiary designations are up to date.

Check all your retirement accounts, insurance policies, annuities and pensions. Many taxable accounts, such as savings, checking and brokerage accounts, can have transfer-on-death (TOD) designations that act like a beneficiary designation. Check with your financial institutions on how to set up a TOD beneficiary. You can usually have primary and secondary beneficiaries, and designate that folks receive differing percentages of the account.

4. Funeral instructions. Pondering their own demise is difficult for many people. Still, it’s important to make sure your family or executor know your wishes. It’s so much easier to go to the funeral parlor with a clear idea of what your loved one wanted, right down to small details like the songs to play at a service. You can even plan your own funeral, if that’s something you’re comfortable with.

5. Letter of instruction. A letter of last instruction is an informal document that gives your survivors information concerning important financial and personal matters that must be attended to after your demise. I’ve heard people call this the “death file” or the “doomsday letter.” The more detailed it is, the better.

6. A family conversation. As difficult as this subject may be, it’s important that someone knows your wishes and where key information can be found. I’m a big proponent of being open with your adult children about your finances and other personal matters. The discussions may bring up issues you hadn’t considered or perhaps have the wrong idea about.

7. Account consolidation. I've heard about people who spent more than two years finding and simplifying the financial assets of a family member who died. Sometimes cognitive decline or a sudden event, e.g. accident or stroke, can occur. Sometimes dozens of POAs have to be put into place with various financial institutions, who can have their own forms which needed to be notarized or have a medallion signature guarantee. Don't count on receiving any funds quickly!

8. Ethical Will My own version / definition: Especially if you might leave behind Loved Ones who value your opinion, wisdom, judgment or expertise. "Pretend you just died.  Now, you get to come back for 30 minutes. What will you say, and to whom? Write it down.

9. Document Checklist ATTACHED Simple situations might not require this checklist, but complicated ones will so as not to forget anything critical.

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