Emergency Preparedness with Estate Planning

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man pushing stretcher into back of ambulance

No one likes to think about what happens in an emergency, but it is critically important that everyone knows where to turn when something happens. Before our father passed away, he had a heart attack, multiple ministrokes (TIAs) and strokes, and suffered from Alzheimer’s. He was a walking warning to our family to be prepared for emergencies. While all his health issues had us well-practiced and prepared, we weren’t always that good.

Dad’s first stroke occurred when we were in California working. Mom called and used that “I’m-trying-to-be-calm-but-really-am-not” voice that she only used when majorly bad things happen. She very calmly told us that while they were visiting Philadelphia, a few hours away from their home, dad had a major stroke. Our aunt (who is a physician’s assistant), was able to recognize the signs and immediately stepped into action. When they got to the hospital, they started the stroke protocol, but the doctor was convinced that he wouldn’t make it through. That entire day we were in a mad scramble to find his insurance cards, his doctor’s contact information, his prescription regimen and more. 

It was awful. Mom would run in between the emergency room and his doctors and the hallway to call us. Mom had a lot of information in her head and cell phone, but it took us a long time to find information and the doctors had to proceed without knowing everything about his healthcare history. But for the grace of God, he pulled through – much to the entire hospital staff’s surprise. It was so hard to locate everything when they weren’t close to home that mom swore she would never go through that again.

When they finally returned home from the hospital, we started creating the “Ultimate Emergency Information Kit”. Mom went to the dollar store and bought a large envelope and she labeled it with dad’s name and our contact information. Next, we started collecting information. From doctor’s contact information to medicines and past health issues, we created a list of everything that would be helpful for treating dad at a moment’s notice. Then, we went a step further and started collecting non-medical information that would have been great to have in a hospital room. For example, we gathered family members’ phone numbers (most of which are stored on Mom’s phone), contact information for neighbors or friends we could ask for help and a useful ‘don’t forget list’. 

On our list was everything from “take care of the dog” to “these are things that need to happen with the house when mom and dad are away”. Once we started, it was like opening a Pandora’s box filled with never-ending information that needed to be kept up-to-date. Plus, we needed to make sure that once we had the information, we could access it.

That’s where Gentreo came in. At the time, Renee and I were building a solution for families so that everyone could create an estate plan that protected them. We soon realized that a major part of this would be creating that one virtual home that everyone could turn to in an emergency or as life happens. That way, we could help people find what information was useful, and as their life changed, they would have one place to update their information. It would be safe and secure and only accessible to those who the user chose to share that information with. Best of all, it would all be accessible from a computer, a phone or a tablet. 

Gone would be the days where mom would have to carry what turned into a huge folder of information anytime they left the house. With the Gentreo Digital Family Vault, anyone –      mom at the hospital or us from thousands of miles away – could access critical information with a few clicks of a button.      

Our personal experience challenged our thinking that estate planning is only about creating legal documents. It sparked a change that helped redefine our mission to help families protect their loved ones through all aspects of estate planning, including creating legal documents as well as addressing the financial and emotional sides of protecting your family with a legal plan     

Preparing your family for the unexpected and in the event of an emergency should start now. Begin by collecting information and storing and sharing it. This helps you manage at least a part of an uncontrollable situation. During an emergency, you should be there by your loved one’s side, not making frantic calls in the middle of the night trying desperately to find information. 

Our team at Gentreo worked hard to put together a Digital Family Vault and an Emergency Card so that you can be a step ahead. Join today and create your Emergency Card for free. While no one ever wants to use it, having your emergency information close at hand is vitally important.

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