Your 7-Point Checklist For When Life Suddenly Changes

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Let me start with a story. I live in Denver, Colorado, with my husband, Brian, and our two beautiful daughters, Addie and Eden. One perfect day in Breckinridge, Colorado, we were doing what we love to do as a family—snow skiing at our favorite resort—when our lives suddenly changed forever.

We were skiing across the mountain when a sudden sharp pain in my head stopped me in my tracks. I skied over to my husband and told him my head really hurt. I bent over and held my head in my hands for 30 seconds. When I stood back up, I felt tingling at the base of my skull and shooting pain down my spine. I knew something was wrong.

I experienced what they call a “spontaneous subarachnoid hemorrhage,” which is short for a brain bleed. As a healthy 49-year-old female with no preexisting conditions, this was a shocking turn of events. Within an hour I had my diagnosis and was on a Flight for Life back to Denver, not knowing if I’d ever see my family again.

Although nobody wants to think about it, planning for what would happen upon your death or incapacitation is the single most important thing you can do to protect your family.

They’ll likely be scared and overwhelmed when something traumatic happens. Make it easy for them to handle your affairs by creating a folder where they can access all the information they need.

Here’s a checklist of 7 key items you should store in that folder, so your family can easily access it during an emergency:

1. Copy Of Your Social Security Card

Your loved ones may be eligible for survivor benefits through the Social Security office if you die. Your Social Security card will remind them to explore their options.

For example, if your spouse dies and you are caring for minors all of you may be eligible for a benefit up to the family maximum.  This will go a long way in helping cover expenses.

2. Employer Contact Information

If you’re a W2 employee, put the contact information for your HR representative in the folder. Your family can contact this person to check on employer-sponsored benefits such as group life policies, pensions, stock option plans, 401(k)s, health insurance, and more.

3. List Of Online Accounts & Login Information

It’s estimated the average person has approximately 90 online accounts. Your loved ones will need access to these accounts when settling your estate. Otherwise, they may have to get a court order to avoid violating any terms of service agreements with your online providers.

When making your list, be sure to include login credentials for:

  • Your phone, computer, and other electronic devices
  • Password management software (if you use it)
  • Email accounts
  • Social media
  • Financial accounts, including those for debts, banking, investments, peer-to-peer payments like Venmo and PayPal, and more

4. Copy Of Life & Disability Insurance Policies

Keep copies of your life and disability insurance policies in your folder, along with any pension information or military benefits your family is set to receive.

5. Copy Of Estate Planning Documents

Proper estate planning needs to happen prior to an event. Yes, getting estate documents in order now costs money, but consider the cost and time to your family if they have to go through probate to settle your estate.

If you haven’t already, establish an estate plan with a trusted professional so your beneficiaries are protected and the distribution of your assets goes smoothly and according to your wishes.  Then keep a copy of this plan in your folder.

6. Contact Information For Trusted Advisors

Your folder should contain contact information for your CPA, attorney, financial advisor, insurance agent, and any other trusted individuals. In times of stress, these individuals can help your loved ones access accounts, process claims, and navigate through their new normal.

7. List Of Safety Deposit Or Other Storage Locations

Create a list of all the storage and safety deposit boxes you have, along with their location. If you have a home safe, provide the access code to it.

Where Should You Store Your Folder?

As you can see, this is highly sensitive information, so be careful about where you store it. You could keep your folder locked in a home safe, or you could go digital and use software like EverPlans to store it securely online. If you go online, make sure you choose a company with strict security measures in place. And then let your trusted loved ones know where to locate your folder should they need to access it.

Take Action Now Before Life Throws You A Curveball

I can tell you from experience that when something traumatic happens, the one left standing—in my case, my husband—may forget everything. Even though I had shared with him where to find our life policies, assets, disability policies, etc., his mind went completely blank the moment I was loaded on that flight. Make it easy for your family by having everything in one easily accessible place.

At Prosperion Financial Advisors, we want you to be as prepared as possible when life throws you a curveball. If you’d like help putting together a plan that offers peace of mind and security, reach out to us today. You can schedule an introductory meeting with me by calling 303-793-3202 or emailing

About Nelisha

Nelisha Firestone is an LPL Financial Advisor with Prosperion Financial Advisors, an independent fee-only financial planning firm based in Denver, CO. With over 16 years of experience, Nelisha is passionate about guiding women to live their best lives by crafting their road map to financial security and freedom. Her drive to help women comes from watching her grandmother, who was widowed at the age of 49, struggle financially after her husband died. Nelisha recognizes that if her grandmother had someone in her life to offer her sound financial advice, she would have lived a much better life. That’s why Nelisha specializes in serving female business owners and single women with comprehensive financial planning and wealth management services. She recognizes that women have unique challenges, and she partners with her clients by educating and empowering them to make the best financial decisions possible. Nelisha has a bachelor’s degree from Kansas State University and is married to a Colorado native. Nelisha and her husband have two beautiful daughters, Addison and Eden, and love to spend time in the great outdoors hiking, skiing, and camping—to name a few! To learn more about Nelisha, connect with her on LinkedIn.

Nelisha Firestone

As a mother and business owner, she knows life can get busy and is full of distractions. However, financial success doesn’t happen without some meaningful planning first. No matter your stage of life, she will help you connect with your goals and craft a roadmap to pursue financial independence Nelisha has 13 years in the financial services industry. She began her career at Edward Jones in 2004 then moved her practice to LPL in 2007 where she worked primarily out of the Coors Credit Union providing advice to their membership base. She’s married to a Colorado native and is mother to two young Daughters, Addison and Eden. They love to spend time in the great outdoors hiking, skiing, and camping to name a few.

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