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What’s in Your Notebook

October 20, 2011

For many families, especially those in Florida who move from elsewhere, the holidays are the only time every one or two years when adult kids, parents, grandkids, and grandparents get to see each other. That time together is ideal to let your family members know where you keep “the Notebook.”

The Notebook is my term for a central place you keep information “in case something happens to you.” I find many people have some kind of a notebook or desk drawer, but often have a few items missing.

What do you keep in your Notebook that you want your family members to know? Write me with your ideas at and I will compile them for a blog post and for the next newsletter. Let me know in your email if it is ok for me to use your name and your city.

Common and essential items in the notebook include:

* Your five basic estate planning documents: original will (drafted by an attorney in the state where you now reside), living will, health care surrogate, durable power of attorney, and HIPAA designations;

* Advanced estate planning documents if you have them: trusts, partnership agreements, business buy/sell agreements, shareholder agreements, etc.

* Insurance policies. ALL of them: life, long term care, health, property, car, boat, liability, and any others.

* Contact information for all professional advisers: attorneys, bankers, accountants, investment advisers, insurance agents, and of course your personal CFO or financial planner. 🙂

* For each adviser, make a note about what document or issue they helped you with.

* Also, if your adviser has an assistant or paralegal who knows you and your situation, write down their contact information and a little note to that effect. (“Sharon is the assistant and she runs the whole place.”).

* All of your health care providers – doctors, dentist, optometrist, veterinarian (who is going to take care of Fluffy?). Put similar information by each one – what they helped you with and if any office or nursing staff know you and your history.

* Directions on how to find your financial stuff: online user ids and passwords, bank statements, investment statements, real estate deeds and mortgages.

Not-as-essential items some people include:
* An “ethical will” outlining your values. When they are having trouble deciding what you would have wanted, they can refer to your ethical will for guidance. ( or

* An end-of-life health care management booklet like Five Wishes (

Think of your Notebook as a trail of bread crumbs to help your loved ones work backward in your footsteps. A investment of time to leave an easy-to-follow “trail” is one of the best holiday gifts you can give.

4 Comments leave one →
  1. April 3, 2012 9:30 pm

    I’m happy to see so much of good estate planning summed up Holly Thomas style — accurate, concise, and easy to grasp. From one objective personal adviser to another:

    Good job, Holly. As usual.

  2. Bruce Tannahill permalink
    January 1, 2013 6:12 pm

    A great list, Holly. Instead of including the originals of your will and revocable trust, it may be better to include a copy in the Notebook and store the originals in a safe deposit box or have the drafting attorney store them. Just make a note on the copy where the original is. Be sure to include a copy of the beneficiary designation form for all life insurance policies, annuities, IRAs and other retirement accounts with the appropriate documents.

    You should also include a list of your bank accounts, brokerage accounts, etc.

    Don’t forget contact information for family and friends — home and work addresses; home, work, and cell phone numbers; home and work e-mail addresses. Include spouses’ information as well.

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