In Case of Emergency: A List for Widows

Q. My husband died a year ago and my children keep badgering me to give them an “in case” list of who they should contact if I’m seriously ill or injured and can’t manage my own affairs—or if I suddenly die. My son says, “What if you’re hurt in an accident or have a heart attack?” I guess it’s a good idea but is there an easy way to do this?

Some of us feel our eyes glazing over at the thought of compiling such a list, no matter how responsible we are and how much we love our family. It can seem like an overwhelming task and we tend to think, “Nothing is going to happen to me—at least not yet.” Yet the list is indispensable to those who must take care of you and your day-to-day affairs if you’re incapacitated. Your husband knew or had access to this information, but he’s no longer here. 

The basic list below is adapted from a “Life Data File” suggested by personal financial adviser Leslie J. Brey, L.J. Brey, Inc., Honolulu:


Social Security Number

Beneficiary Names, Addresses, Social Security Numbers, Birthdates

Checking and Other Account Numbers and Location of Checkbook

Location of Will(s) and/or Trust(s)

Life Insurance Policy Numbers and Carriers

Annuity Contract Numbers and Carriers

Credit Card Numbers

Accountant, Attorney, Insurance Agent, Financial Planner Names and Phone Numbers

Company Benefits Administrator Name and Phone Number

Other Advisor/Family Member/Friend Names and Phone Numbers

Who will pay immediate bills if you can’t? Ongoing bills?



Consider the list a general guide. Add or subtract from it, depending on your own individual life situation and needs. For example, you might want to include the names and phone numbers of your doctor(s). The Life Data File can actually be used by anyone, with the addition of a spouse’s social security number and military ID number, if applicable. 


Give a copy of your list to your children, executor, and/or any person with power of attorney. Keep your own copy handy or even posted somewhere. I’m hanging mine on the inside door of the closet that holds my personal files. If you need an extra “push” to sit down and fill out your list, why not ask your son (or a friend) to help you do it. Both of you will feel more secure and better prepared for the unexpected.    


If you have a question for Florence, please email her at


Florence Isaacs is a freelance journalist, author—and a widow herself. Her books include My Deepest Sympathies, When the Man You Love Is Ill and Just a Note to Say...The Perfect Words for Every Occasion



Image: Flickr Creative Commons/Courtney Dirks

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