Do You Have An Emergency List For Your Family?

In our household, I manage most of the bills, financial accounts, and more. I know I’m not alone either – in most families, one person usually handles all of these things. I’ve been in charge of our important information for years, mainly because it’s just something I know I can do and we’ve fallen into…

Michelle Schroeder-Gardner

Last Updated: December 16, 2020

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In our household, I manage most of the bills, financial accounts, and more. I know I’m not alone either – in most families, one person usually handles all of these things.

I’ve been in charge of our important information for years, mainly because it’s just something I know I can do and we’ve fallen into a routine now after doing this for so long.

Recently though, we realized that this could turn into a financial emergency disaster. I manage everything just from my memory, so nothing is actually written down and most of our bills are either auto-pay or paperless, so there is no paper record in our house of anything either.

This could be a financial emergency disaster because if something were to happen to me, I honestly do not know what Wes would do. It would make everything much more difficult for him when he would already be having a hard time, and that is not something anyone wants to deal with. Having some sort of financial emergency response plan is something we need to create.

While to some this situation may be no big deal, I know there are many, many families out there who would be very lost if something were to happen to the person who usually manages their financial situation. Accounts could get lost, bills may be forgotten about, and more.

It’s best to keep a financial emergency response plan of everything just in case something were to happen, even if it’s something no one ever wants to think about. Having one just makes life so much easier.

My top tip is to check out the In Case of Emergency Binder to help you with creating your own emergency binder. This is a 100+ page fillable PDF workbook.  The In Case of Emergency Binder was created to remove significant complications from the process and help you actually get your important information ready. The research is done, the workbook is put into easy to follow sections, and everything you need is included. Please check it out here.

Below are three easy steps to creating a financial emergency response plan for your family.

 

1. Collect all important documents, bills, usernames and passwords, and so on.

This is probably the hardest part. You should sit down and try to think about all of the bills and accounts you have.

You might miss one or two, so it’s best to go through these accounts as you pay your bills as well so that you can make sure everything is included. Also, don’t forget to keep everything up-to-date as information can change over the years.

Some accounts, bills, etc. you may want to record include:

  • Bills directly related to your home, such as your mortgage or rent, gas, electricity, TV, internet, sewer, trash, water, and so on;
  • Life insurance information;
  • Health insurance along with any important medical information such as doctors, medications, illnesses, etc.;
  • Home insurance along with information related to property taxes, important documents, and so on;
  • Car insurance and car registration information;
  • Debts such as credit cards, student loans, etc.;
  • Social security cards;
  • Copies of driver’s licenses;
  • Death certificates (hopefully you don’t have any of these, but if you do then you want to keep them safe);
  • Will and/or trust papers;
  • Income information, such as if you have passive income that comes in;
  • Tax information such as recent tax returns;
  • Safety deposit keys;
  • Bank, savings, retirement, and investment accounts;
  • Birth certificates;
  • Passports;
  • Phone numbers, usernames, and passwords for anything important; and so on.

 

2. Keep your financial emergency response plan somewhere safe.

After you collect all of this information, you will want to put it somewhere safe.

A lot of this information could lead to a disaster if an identity thief were to get a hold of it all, so it’s better to be safe than sorry.

I recommend keeping it in a safe in your home or something that is fire/water proof.

You don’t just want to save it in a random place on your computer either as you never know who will access it in the future. There are safe ways to store stuff on your computer, you just have to make sure the information is encrypted and that you always completely trust the internet connection you are on.

 

3. Explain everything to your loved ones.

Collecting all of this information is not enough.

You will want to go over everything with the person who would be next in charge after you, as they may have questions about how to access certain accounts, how to pay different bills, and so on.

You also want to make sure that this person knows where this information is and that they can easily access it. If you store everything on your computer but then they don’t know the password to your computer, that isn’t going to help anyone.

My top tip is to check out the In Case of Emergency Binder to help you with creating your own emergency binder. This is a 100+ page fillable PDF workbook.  The In Case of Emergency Binder was created to remove significant complications from the process and help you actually get your important information ready. The research is done, the workbook is put into easy to follow sections, and everything you need is included. Please check it out here.

Do you have a financial emergency response plan? Who manages everything in your family? What would happen if they were no longer able to manage everything all of a sudden?


Michelle Schroeder-Gardner

Author: Michelle Schroeder-Gardner

Hey! I’m Michelle Schroeder-Gardner and I am the founder of Making Sense of Cents. I’m passionate about all things personal finance, side hustles, making extra money, and online businesses. I have been featured in major publications such as Forbes, CNBC, Time, and Business Insider. Learn more here.

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  1. Ali

    I don’t have an emergency response plan but I agree that it is a good idea. The one downside that pops into my mind is that you might make yourself an easy target of theft/identity theft by putting all of your important information together in one place.

    1. Yes, I mentioned that downside in this post, however, it does make things easier on your loved ones to have it. There are plenty of ways to keep it in a safe place πŸ™‚

  2. Petrish @ Debt Free Martini

    This is a great reminder of the things that are so important to do that most of us overlook. I have nothing in place and in fact my family know nothing about my military benefits or types of documents to collect and that is bad. Great reminder!

    1. Sounds like you definitely need one!

  3. Heather @ Simply Save

    This a good list and includes a lot of things that we may easily overlook! I have something similar and have all of the documents locked up. My dad has a copy of the general list of my accounts and benefits etc. Working in the public sector, I have some different benefits that he may not be aware of should anything happen to me.

    1. Yes, that is something that most people don’t realize. Different people have different accounts so it can be so easy to forget something!

  4. This has crossed my mind before about what a mess my hubs would have if something happened to me. Thanks for putting a clear plan in print to motivate us to get this done!

    blessings,
    The How-to Guru

  5. This is totally a great topic Michelle! I’m sure lots of us didn’t think about this one, having a financial emergency list would be very important.

    1. Thank you! Do you have one?

  6. I’ve definitely been thinking about doing something like this. My husband takes care of all the bills and finances and whenever I think about what I would do if something happens to him, I am totally lost. We should probably sit down and figure it out so we are BOTH aware.

    1. Yes, definitely sit down and start creating one πŸ™‚

  7. I manage things, but periodically review with the family. Decision are made by committee, so everything is out in the open. In the event of an emergency my wife would know how to handle.

  8. Amy @ DebtGal

    We’re in the same position here. I manage everything, and most of the passwords are confined to my head. However, I recently started writing them down as I go. I keep them in a not-super-secure notebook, mainly because I need to access it myself, sometimes. We really do need a fire-proof safe to keep all of our important papers in.

    I would add to the list you shared things, social media and email passwords. I would want my husband – or someone else trusted – to be able to access and close those accounts if something happened to me.

    1. Yes, that is on my list. Having access to all accounts, even online accounts, is very important!

  9. Kristi

    Great post and great list! I just talked to my husband about this the other day. He handles most of our accounts and has all of the passwords. It makes me very nervous to not have all of our information in one central location. We are going to be sitting down over the course of the next few weeks to get all of our information together.

  10. So much to consider! I have an app on my phone where I store all usernames and passwords just because I can’t remember any of them since there are so many. That’s a start!

    1. Yes, there’s a ton to consider!

  11. Awesome! Great to hear πŸ™‚

  12. This is a really good idea! Even for non-emergency situations, I could see this list coming in handy. We don’t have our stuff all written down in one place, but this makes me think we should! So much is just in our minds… especially passwords.

  13. This is a great idea. I am the Chief Financial Officer in our home but my hubby knows where everything is. It is my goal to come up with a binder for each family member with their pertinent information instead of having it hang out in file folders.

  14. Thank you for the reminder. I’ve been meaning to put something like this together for ages. Definitely time to bump it up the list of priorities.

    My mum had an operation last month and has been completely out of action so I’ve been doing a lot of her financial stuff – I really need to get all of that in one place, and make sure my daughter knows where that is, too.

    Thanks Michelle!

  15. Kathy

    My husband and I have prepared a lengthy document for our son in the event something happens to both of us at the same time. Then each January, we update it and put it in our safe deposit box. Son knows where it is, knows where the keys are and is a co-owner on the box. I think we have it covered.

  16. My wife has been pushing for us to do this for quite some time now. I honestly have kept putting it off…but I shouldn’t. It does take a lot of work to gather all the information, but I think it would definitely be worth it if something happened.

    1. Yes, I definitely think it would be worth it.

  17. Jack @ Enwealthen

    Completely agree. In fact, it’s such an important item for everyone to have, that’s why I created my own financial organization template and give it away free on Enwealthen.

    Then we just update it once a year, and store it in our safety deposit box along with a printout from our password vault so we don’t have to manually update all those randomly generated passwords.

  18. Lizz

    I so many bill log-ins (including student loans…) I have to have a list for myself just to remember! Step 3 is so important you think it would be a no brainer until you start listing the “what-ifs”.

    1. Yes, there are many what-ifs!

  19. Kirsten

    My mom put one of these together in between the seven years that passed from my father’s death to hers. We never found it. It was possibly in the car with her, when she was involved in her fatal car accident. Not having it made things messier, but we got through it. But I definitely wish we could have found it!

    1. Yes, finding it definitely would have made things easier. My father didn’t have one either and it made things much harder.

  20. Pyper B from Weird Scholarships

    Thanks for the great tips! I agree that a financial emergency plan is a great idea for a busy household. Using a fireproof safe and hiding it in an out of sight location in your house would be one way to prevent yourself from becoming a target.

  21. Sheron Halladay

    Great article. My work got extra slow starting in December and my expenses have been greater than my income since December. I saved for this which is good because winters are generally slow doing organic gardening and landscape maintenance in the pacific northwest, but when the work slowed down and some recent estimates haven’t taken hold yet, I freaked out and lost my center which snowballed the effect. And in this place when you are self employed your prospects and clients are off put when you come at them like that and not centered in your service.

  22. Brittney @ Life On A Discount

    Great article! We have developed an “emergency fund,” but never thought about having an emergency list. Definitely some thing to think about.

  23. Lisa

    This is such a great idea! The Fiance and I plan on paying our bills together, but this is still something we should do. It’s always good to have a centralized document with everything on it in case something slips through the cracks.