As my father became increasingly ill, he began to send me an occasional list of where his important things were. This began in 1999. I would throw the emails into a file and just sort of avoid the whole issue. It's difficult to take death seriously, even for an estate planner. (Although, in my defense, I wasn't an estate planner back then.) The larger point is that many of us don't really want to imagine the finality of our parent's death.
But here's the thing, as he lay dying this year, I just, somewhat foolishly in retrospect, figured the list was accurate. I didn't actually double check while I still had time to ask him where things were. It would have been easy. One of the first things that my sister and I did was go to his apartment and take the valuable things (and important papers) back to my house, to keep them safe.
What we didn't do was look in the box of important papers and verify their existence. I REALLY wish I'd asked him where that stock certificate was for the 850,000 (!) shares of that start up was. Because it's not under "B" like he said it would be (repeatedly, and often), But it's not there. Or anywhere else.
And now I can't ask him. So, here's the take away: If you have time to discuss these things with your parent or loved one, do.
Next blog: how you replace a stock certificate and the mysteries of the transfer agent.
For a complete guide to organizing your records in order to make it easy for your family to track down your important paperwork, see Get It Together: Organize Your Records So Your Family Won't Have To, by Melanie Cullen and Shae Irving (Nolo).