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Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Checklists For Managing Your Life

A study done by the World Health Organization a number of years ago proved that when hospitals used checklists before and during surgery, they significantly improved patient care.


As reported in the New York Times, the average complication rate fell to 7% from 11% after surgeons and their surgical teams were required to use simple checklists.  The death rate fell even more - by almost 50%.

It’s surprising, considering all the technology, intelligence, training and education of a typical surgical team, that something as simple as a checklist would make such a difference.


Checklists for important obligations 

What about checklists in our own lives?  Many of us routinely use checklists for unimportant things, like buying groceries or running errands, but when it comes to the really important stuff, like taking care of our elderly parents, managing our careers, or getting the kids ready for college, we don’t even think about checklists.   After all, these are ongoing obligations, lasting for many years and who wants to be bound by a checklist?  And where would we keep the checklist?  Do we need a checklist to remind us to check the checklist?

But the value of a good checklist is undeniable.  So the staff at SafelyFiled looked around for some checklists that we thought would help our members.  We couldn’t find anything that was, in our opinion, quite right.  Some were too short.  Others were extensive and required a big time commitment.

We wanted something that was comprehensive but not too burdensome, could be gradually completed over a period of time, and would make you think about what you were checking off and why.  So we created our own.  We posted them in the help section of the website.  They are available to members, even trial members, and we hope that you take advantage of them.

Checklists you can use

Our checklists may be a little different from some of the other ones you’ve seen.  They don’t give you tasks to complete, but list documents that you need to save.  That’s it.  But sometimes, looking over a document you’re about to upload reminds you that something needs to be done.  For example, three of the items we mention in a checklist are pension, 401k plan and life insurance documents.  Many of us forget to review these documents periodically to make sure our beneficiary or payout selection is correct. Life events like marriage, divorce or having a child can invalidate selections made years ago - or if not invalidate them, simply render them inappropriate.  (Your family might be upset if an ex-girlfriend was the primary beneficiary on your life insurance policy.) Good checklists for your life can prevent big problems, just like they do in surgery.

Take advantage of them

Feel free to download or print the checklists.  So far we have checklists for Managing Your Family, Planning Your Estate, and Managing Your Career. We’re working on more.  Download them, print them, and check off what documents you’ve saved.  Send yourself a reminder about the other documents on the list.  If you want, upload your completed or partially completed checklists to your SafelyFiled account.  Share them with your family and friends if you think these checklists will help them.

Finally, we hope that you, as members of the SafelyFiled community, will not hesitate to give us suggestions on how to improve these checklists, or give us ideas on other checklists to develop. 

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Helping Mom (Or more accurately, Mom helping me)

My mother is my sole surviving parent and her will names me as executor.  She lives in Florida and I live in the Midwest.  For years we've had an ongoing discussion about where she keeps her important papers, what her wishes are in the event she's incapacitated and where she keeps all of her account information.  She's pretty tech-savvy for someone her age, pretty well organized and healthy, but still…  We are both realistic.

I'm no spring chicken myself.  I used to write down Mom's instructions and where she says she keeps her original documents and hoped that when the time came, I could remember where I put my notes.  Then, I'd hope I'd have Mom's instructions to guide me if I had to make a quick decision about her in the midst of a very emotional time.

Recently we found a better way to deal with this situation.  Mom got a SafelyFiled account.  I actually got it for her.  But it's hers and here's what she does with it.  She doesn't like using her scanner, so she takes digital pictures of her documents, like her insurance policies, her will, her healthcare power of attorney and bank account statements and uploads them to her account.  (It's amazing what we can do now with all the new technology.)  She even decided to upload her list of medications and some recent reports on medical tests so if there's a medical emergency, especially when she's away from her home and visiting me, we can quickly give the emergency physicians critical information.

When she's online and in her account, she records the location of the original documents using the "Location" field and writes a note to herself or me, right on the screen where the document is displayed.  The location and notes pop up whenever the document is viewed.  She can even schedule an email reminder for some later date, like a reminder to upload a more recent bank account statement, or to review her will and other documents.  So now, all the critical information is in one, secure location.

Mom made me a co-member on her account, so not only can I see everything she's uploaded along with her notes, but I can also upload the documents that I have access to and write my own notes.  I no longer have to remember where I kept my paper notes about mom's wishes or where her original documents are located.  All that information is in the account where I can see it anytime and Mom (or I) can update it wherever she wants.

I'm lucky.  Mom is still independent and we both want to keep it that way for as long as possible.  But if the time comes and she can't manage her account and upload new documents, as her co-member I'll have the ability to help her or even take over if that is necessary.

Mom and I both feel good about getting these matters taken care of.  And now, I'm doing the same thing with my daughter.   Thank you Mom!

Thursday, February 7, 2013

Digital Assets - Part of Your Legacy?

You've put your will, your living will and your insurance policies into your SafelyFiled account.  You've uploaded the car titles and the birth certificates.  You've marked the locations of the originals, so if anything happens to you, your spouse or children can find them.

What About Digital Assets?
Your email, email address book, music and social media accounts are digital assets.  While you can use them any time you want, the law is still unsettled with regard to your ability to sell them or pass them on to your heirs.  See this link for a short article on the problem: http://abcnews.go.com/Technology/passing-digital-media-apps-easy-pass/story?id=17148612

But even without considering the ownership issue, letting someone know you have these assets and giving them access to the information stored in those accounts can be critical.  Your email address book is one digital asset that many of us don't think about.  You may not want to share your email address book with your daughter now, but if something happened to you, you'd probably appreciate having your daughter notify your friends.  She couldn't do that without their email addresses, and she needs your name and password to get into your account.

The same goes for all of the financial statements you get electronically.  In the past, one of your family members could go through your paper folders to determine what you own.  Now, there may not be any paper files to go through. 

How you handle this is up to you, and there may be some contractual restrictions on giving others access to your accounts.  But let me tell you what I've done.

I set up a "Password" folder in my SafelyFiled account. Into that folder I uploaded two documents.  One of the documents is a spreadsheet with the account names and passwords.  My wife and I can see that anytime we log in.  I also uploaded another document that simply says, "All my names and passwords are located in a plastic sleeve in the middle drawer of the desk in my study."  I gave my children access to that note, so they don't have access to the accounts now, but can get to them in the event of an emergency, when they really need access.

It's Up To You
Each one of us has a different opinion about what should be shared, when it should be shared and what should be kept private.  However, with digital assets, your opinion may not matter one bit unless you do something and at least let your loved ones know you have these assets.  We hope SafelyFiled makes it easier for you to do that "something" you need to do.

Monday, February 4, 2013

Getting documents into SafelyFiled

One challenge in today's world is that important information is delivered to us in different formats.
  • Some items you have had in paper format for quite some time, e.g. birth certificates, wills, powers of attorney.
  • Some still arrive as paper, e.g., receipts and warranties from stores, monthly statements that arrive in the mail.
  • Some arrive via email, e.g. coupon codes or membership notifications.
  • Others are accessed from secured web sites, e.g. bank statements
Electronic DocumentsIt is straightforward to get items already in electronic form into SafelyFiled. Items that arrive in your email inbox can be forwarded to your SafelyFiled account. The email and any attachments will be uploaded into your SafelyFiled To Be Filed folder.

For items that you have in physical paper form, it is less obvious how to get a digital copy into SafelyFiled. Fortunately, technology has moved along, giving you several options.
Large Paper DocumentsFor large documents, like wills, leases, or contracts, you will want to use a flat bed scanner with a paper feeder. If you don't have one sitting around your house, don't fret. They are available for use at many locations such as office support stores like FedEx Office or perhaps your local library. Your insurance agent, bank, or tax accountant likely also has this equipment and may be willing to help your out.

Small Paper Documents

For small documents, like warranties, insurance cards, and receipts, your phone or camera can come to the rescue. Just taking a picture of a insurance card can make a good enough image. Make sure you have good light, and your are not blocking the light source while taking the picture. On the iPhone, we have the SafelyScan App that helps your take pictures of multiple pages of a document and combine them together into one pdf document. The app then securely uploads the document to your SafelyFiled account.

Once you have your document on your Android phone (by taking a picture or using a scanning app), you can select the share option and email it to your SafelyFiled account. Since email is not secured in transit, I would only recommend this for non-sensitive documents. Otherwise you can save it to your Android device's file system. If the device is a tablet, you can access the SafelyFiled web site from the browser and upload the document directly. Or you can use a USB cable to plug your phone into your computer, use the browser on your computer to access the SafelyFiled web site, and upload documents from your phone storage. 

Thanks to new and evolving technologies you have many options to quickly, easily, and securely unify the storage of your important documents in SafelyFiled. Paper may never disappear, but by using digital copies and making appropriate notes and tags you can organize your important physical documents and your important digital documents together.

You can download statements from secured web sites onto your computer and then upload them into your SafelyFiled account. Making a snapshot of your financial statements on a quarterly or annual basis is a very good idea. It provides you a historical view of your financial status and keeps all of your financial information together in a form easier to search and review than the shoe box you may currently be using.

If you have a small business or a busy household, it may even make sense to purchase your own all-in-one device that prints, scans, and faxes. CNET's latest best-of-list for all-in-one devices includes some with paper feeders for under $200. (and some without paper feeders for under $100).

While we don't have an app on Android devices yet, there are several options for acquiring and uploading documents with an Android phone or tablet. You can use the smart phone camera directly, or there are several Android apps that take pictures of documents, spiff them up, and make a PDF document out of them. I have used Handy Scanner, and I've been very impressed with the quality of the resulting document. I tried scanning the same warranty with the office flatbed scanner and Handy Scanner. The flatbed version was a little better but not that much better. The actual document size was smaller from Handy Scanner. CamScanner is the other Android scanning app that's highly rated. New apps appear so quickly, that in six months there will no doubt be new scanning apps to try out.