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Keeping Up with Record Keeping and Why It Matters

Imagine that you suddenly fall ill and are taken unconscious to the hospital. Will your family have your Directive Regarding Who May Receive Medical Information so they can get updated on your condition? Will your family be able to find your Medical Power of Attorney so that they can act on your behalf?

Like having a reliable automobile, the only way to be prepared is to address problems or changes as they occur and to do regular maintenance. We cannot choose when an emergency will occur, when we fall ill or become infirm, or our memories begin to falter. The time to get your records in order is now while you are able.

One member of the sandwich generation was caring for her parents who both have dementia. They had not been able to keep up with their record keeping. However, she did not discover the extent of the problem until she stepped in as their caregiver and financial manager. As power of attorney, she spent countless hours locating and organizing her parents’ voluminous financial and personal records unable to ask them any questions despite the fact that they were still alive. If only they had communicated more about their affairs while they were able.

It’s important to review your record keeping whenever you have a major life event. Major life events include:


  • Birth
  • Marriage
  • Divorce
  • Empty nest
  • Home purchase
  • House move
  • Down sizing
  • Job change
  • Job loss
  • Change in finances
  • Death

Even if you do not experience a major life event, it’s important that you regularly review your record keeping. It’s just as important to communicate this information to others. Sit down with your family and/or executor at least once a year. Consider tying your review to an annual event. It can be personal such as your

  • Birthday
  • Anniversary

or an event on everyone’s calendar such as:

  • New Year’s Day
  • Income Tax Filing Day—you already will have gathered many of your records!
  • Back to School

You may need to take actions such as:

  • Review your will and power of attorney
  • Change your medical directives
  • Re-title accounts and property
  • Add or drop insurance coverage
  • Update beneficiary information
  • Notify others of change of address
  • Discard old manuals or warranties

You can make some surprising discoveries as you review your files and discard outdated records. A couple was sorting through their folder of instruction manuals and warranties when they came across the manual for “The Clip-Clop Sound Unit.” What in the world they wondered was the “Clip-Clop Sound Unit”? Then it dawned on them. They had purchased a rocking horse connected by springs to a frame for their boys to “ride.” Batteries powered a motion-activated sensor that made the sound of hoof beats, hence the name “Clip-Clop.” They laughed over this memory and how they still had the manual for the “Clip-Clop Sound Unit” even though those boys were now young men in their twenties!

Amy Praskac is a professional organizer and the owner of On the Record. Her passion is helping people prepare for the inevitable. Amy was unexpectedly widowed in 2003 and served as executor of her late husband’s estate. This experience brought home the importance of having one’s affairs in order and served as the inspiration for a new direction in her life. Amy founded On the Record to help individuals organize and communicate their critical personal information to their families. For additional information please visit www.OnTheRecordOrganizing.com.