Melanie Cullen's Blog (18)

Direction for Your Loved Ones

When something happens to you, where do they start?

On a sunny spring morning, my husband and I relaxed on a train crossing France, enjoying the scenery, our books, and cappuccinos. After 10 days of vacation, we were still, serene, and looking forward to time with family.


At the same time, at our route’s end, my daughter was increasingly concerned about our whereabouts and arrival. To my (later) chagrin, I had forgotten to forward our itinerary…


Added by Melanie Cullen on May 14, 2012 at 9:00am — 1 Comment

Emergency Evacuation: Grabbing Your Important Records

Routinely, but sadly, the news reports of residential emergencies—a fire in a family home, regional fires destroying dozens of homes, tremendous storms and flooding. Some of you reading this have experienced home disasters firsthand, living through a frantic evacuation, severe loss of home and personal items, and the uphill climb of rebuilding. All this can…


Added by Melanie Cullen on October 20, 2011 at 11:00am — No Comments

Accessing the Deceased's Financial Accounts

How will they access my bank and brokerage accounts?

When you die, or if you are incapacitated, your loved ones will need to access your financial accounts. In the case of your incapacitation, someone will manage your finances, including paying bills, depositing any checks, managing necessary financial transactions (e.g., purchases, deposits, sales,…


Added by Melanie Cullen on April 1, 2011 at 3:00pm — 1 Comment

Electronic Bill Pay

How will your loved ones track those “invisible” bill-pay charges?

Over time, I have set up automatic payment for several of my bills:

• My monthly mortgage bill is paid by a recurring, automatic charge (direct debit) to my checking account. Two insurance premiums are paid the same way.

• Other bills are automatically charged to my major credit card:…


Added by Melanie Cullen on February 25, 2011 at 4:00pm — 1 Comment

Benefits of Getting Organized

How will getting organized now benefit you over time, time after time?

When my mother died, I was awash in questions, grief, tasks, decisions—and all of that layered on top of my already-busy life far from Mom’s home. I decided then that I will not put my loved ones through the same ordeal when I die. I went home and…


Added by Melanie Cullen on December 17, 2010 at 5:00pm — 1 Comment

Your Last Goodbye

You want to leave a last goodbye, but how can you do that today?

Getting your affairs in order, thinking of your own death, is emotionally hard. Even harder may be facing the task of creating a last goodbye for your loved ones. Almost any other task is more attractive, whether rain or shine, snow, gloom of night. Still, getting everything in order has an attractive pull: You know that your loved ones will cherish your goodbye—and you’ll be pleased when the task is…


Added by Melanie Cullen on March 9, 2010 at 1:00pm — 7 Comments

Who do they call at work if something happens to you?

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…


Added by Melanie Cullen on January 25, 2010 at 12:30pm — No Comments

What will happen to your pets and livestock when you die?

While you’re organizing your records and considering loved ones wrapping up your affairs, you may wonder how to plan for your pets and livestock. What will happen to them when you die? Who will take them and care for them? Here are some tips for planning care for your animals when you’re no longer able.

Today, while you have the time and you’re…


Added by Melanie Cullen on October 24, 2009 at 1:00pm — No Comments

Who's in charge when I die?

If something happens to you, who watches over your health care, finances and other important matters?

No matter your life circumstances—whether you’re young and raising a family, or elderly and caring for yourself—you have plenty of responsibilities. For example, you make decisions about your health care (selecting doctors, choosing treatments) and handle financial…


Added by Melanie Cullen on September 18, 2009 at 10:30am — 1 Comment

Retirement Accounts

What happens to your retirement accounts when you die?

Despite the rough economy, you’ll probably leave money in your retirement accounts when you die. Here is a brief overview of what will happen to those accounts. Also, to ensure that your loved ones take possession in ways that maximize value, here are some tips for you to follow today.

Probate & Taxes

The money passes directly to the beneficiaries you have named on the account.…


Added by Melanie Cullen on August 21, 2009 at 10:00am — No Comments

What Is Probate?

What is it—and why does it have such a bad reputation?

We’ve all heard of probate, and it seems we all know it’s “bad” and to be avoided. But what is it really? And, given your circumstances, should you make arrangements to avoid it? If so, how can you do that?

First, an overview of what it is.

What is probate?

Probate is a legal process for…


Added by Melanie Cullen on August 11, 2009 at 11:00am — 3 Comments

Storing your important records

Where and how should I store them?

Some years back, while discussing Get It Together at a retirement community, a participant posed this dilemma: If I collect up all my important records, how can I ensure they will be safe from theft? If someone breaks into my home today, they won’t be able to find a thing, because all my records are scattered, filed, and…


Added by Melanie Cullen on July 23, 2009 at 12:00pm — 1 Comment

Obtaining a death certificate

What is a death certificate—and why do loved ones need it?

A death certificate is the official record of the death of an individual and includes the dates of birth and death, gender, place of residence, and location and cause of death. It is prepared by the county health department, recorded in the county and maintained by county or state offices.

Why is it needed?

Other than simply recording the death, why do loved ones need it? Well, the agent…


Added by Melanie Cullen on May 14, 2009 at 12:00pm — 2 Comments

Your safe deposit box

If something happens to you, what should—and shouldn’t—you have stored there?

You can rent a safe deposit box at your bank for storing just about anything you want. There are no federal laws, and few state laws, governing the content of safe deposit boxes. Your bank’s contract with you is the best source for identifying any content restrictions.

Who has access to your box—and when?

Access to the box is controlled by you. You can be the sole…


Added by Melanie Cullen on April 27, 2009 at 3:30pm — 6 Comments

Who will care for my children if something happens to me?

Who will care for my children? If something happens to you while your children are young, who will care for them?

It takes time and energy to get your important records in order. Some of the most important—yet most difficult—steps are those regarding care for your minor children. The paperwork isn’t difficult, but the decisions may be hard. It’s hard to imagine your own death, especially while your children are young. It’s also hard to select a guardian; you can think of pros and cons to any choice.…


Added by Melanie Cullen on March 10, 2009 at 10:30am — 8 Comments

How do I create my planner?

Whether you use Get It Together or handle the job on your own, there are a few basic steps to completing and maintaining your personal planner.

1. Get started! Set aside one- to two-hour windows—sufficient to be productive, but not overwhelming. If using…


Added by Melanie Cullen on February 3, 2009 at 11:00am — No Comments

Get It Together provides a framework

First, let’s consider the process—preparing important documents, collecting related records, storing them securely, talking with loved ones and maintaining your personal “planner” (the name I’ll use for your compiled records). You can prepare your planner yourself, relying simply on the tips in this column. Or you can turn to Get It Together (…


Added by Melanie Cullen on February 3, 2009 at 10:30am — No Comments

Welcome to Get It Together Now!

Welcome to Get It Together Now, a new column about organizing your important records—for yourself and, eventually, for your loved ones.

If you’ve ever pitched in for someone who has become incapacitated, or if you’ve helped to wrap up an estate following a death, you know how hard it is. It’s hard emotionally to step in to the void left by that person, however temporarily. It can be hard spiritually to lose the companionship of one you love and the partnership of one you rely on.…


Added by Melanie Cullen on February 3, 2009 at 10:00am — No Comments

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