If something happens to you, who should your loved ones call—and what should they ask about?
If you work for an employer, your loved ones know that you go off to work each day—even if you “go” to work in a home office in your pajamas. But do your loved ones know who to call if something happens to you? Do they have contact information for your employer or business partners? Do they know what they need to ask about if you’re incapacitated or when you die?
Your loved ones may be calling to tell of your short-term absence, such as one following a skiing accident, or to tell of your death. You can pave the way for their follow up if you leave them information and direction—about who to call, what to expect, and how to pursue getting what’s due—to you and, ultimately, to them.
Take time today to document information about your employment, whether full- or part-time, paid or volunteer.
To get you started, here are some situations to consider. In addition to information about your current employment, include information about any prior employment for which benefits are forthcoming for you or your survivors.
Your absence. First, your loved ones will want to call your workplace to let them know you won’t be coming in. Provide names and contact information for those who should be called, such as your supervisor, a business partner, or a contact in Human Resources.
If you carry or store work-related materials away from the workplace (for example, in your car, in a briefcase, or in a home file cabinet), outline what you typically have and where the materials are located. Include access instructions, if necessary. Your loved ones may need to deliver these materials to your employer.
Further, if you have company property in your possession—such as computer equipment or a company car—describe that for your loved ones. Include related information about returning the property to the employer.
Income and expenses. Your loved ones will need to follow up on wages or bonus amounts due to you. Provide contact information for those who should be called.
Include documentation of your earning rate (such as a pay stub or other description) and bonus computations.
Also, if you submit expenses for reimbursement, provide direction for locating any outstanding expenses (such as a pending file or in your daily planner).
Your employer will forward wages and expense reimbursements due to your loved ones.
Benefits. If you have insurance, retirement, stock options, or other benefits through your employer, describe the benefits for your loved ones. Provide contact information for those who should be called regarding each benefit. If applicable, provide both employer and program administrator contacts.
Your loved ones will follow up to receive any benefits due, especially if you are incapacitated and require benefit payments over time, such as for medical care or disability income.
Contract. If you have a contract with your employer, provide details of the arrangement for your loved ones, along with contact information for follow up with your employer.
You can easily file the contract (or a copy) with your Who to Call materials. (If you’re using Get It Together, file the contract in the Employer section of your planner.)
Your loved ones will follow up to receive any benefits due under the contract, whether to you or to your estate.
Ownership. If you hold an ownership position with the organization, describe your interest for your loved ones. Include contact information for follow up, such as with a partner, your accountant, or the corporate attorney.
Include your ownership documents, if any, with your Who to Call materials (or, if using Get It Together, in the Business Interests section of your planner). You may also want to provide your loved ones with direction for disposition of your interest, in the event you will not be returning to work.
Your loved ones can then follow up to resolve your ownership—depending upon your condition, the feasibility of the business continuing in your absence, direction provided in the ownership documents, and any wishes you have documented for them.
Note that ownership of the business may mean you have significant information to convey: business partners, key employees, complex ownership and disposition agreements, significant assets, and so on. For additional help, you might want to turn to Get It Together, which has a section dedicated to documenting Business Interests.
While the information about your employer may be second nature to you, identifying who to call and how to follow up may not be clear to your loved ones. Know that your documenting the information today will lighten the load on them if something should happen to you.
Melanie Cullen is the author of Get It Together: Organize Your Records So Your Family Won’t Have To (Nolo), a workbook/CD-ROM for preparing and organizing your important records—for yourself and for your loved ones. She is a management consultant with TerraSys Consulting, Inc. and serves on the Projects@Work editorial board. She holds an MBA from the Graduate School of Business at Stanford University.
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