Michael Krasny

"Helga writes from the heart and she puts lucidly into prose good, sound and wise advice about the ways for us to begin needed conversations across the generation chasm."

– Host of KQED Forum and author of Spiritual Envy: An Agnostic's Quest



Stan Jernigan

"A pathway, guide and instruction book for dealing with two taboo subjects – money and death. Helga shows how families can avoid misunderstandings about these two issues. This book should be mandatory reading for every parent and adult child."

–Founder, The Mentor Group



Robert Burton, M.D.

"A common sense approach to rethinking personal relationships in the light of not-so-intuitively obvious cognitive science discoveries."

– Author of On Being Certain: Believing That You Are Right Even When You're Not



Bruce Feldstein, M.D.

"I've seen the peace that comes to families who can have the conversations included in this book."

– Director, The Jewish Chaplaincy
Stanford University Medical Center



Create a Family Legacy Binder

The Legacy Binder: What Parents Need to Have & Children Need to Know

What to Put In Your Legacy Binder

Emergency Medical Information
This important emergency medical information - your medical directive and durable power of attorney for health care - needs to be readily available and easy to find, as it is most often needed during a medical crisis when time is limited. If you wish to keep these papers within your Legacy Binder, make sure they are at the front and clearly marked. Remember, these are the documents that will instruct your children, spouse, or loved ones of your wishes in the case of a debilitating accident (or serious deterioration of your health condition), which renders you unable to instruct physicians regarding your care.

There is a wealth of information about directives at this site. I always recommend you check with your attorney to insure the forms are complete and up-to-date in the state in which you live. Changes in the law sometimes require additional updates to the legal forms.


Copy of Estate Plan.

The original of an estate plan is usually kept at the lawyer’s office. You should have copies. The estate plan should including the following:

• A Revocable Living Trust or other trust arrangement
• Funding Instructions for the Trust
• Assignment of Personal Property
• Pour Over Will for husband
• Pour Over Will for wife
• Community Property Agreement
• Durable Power of Attorney for husband’s property
• Durable Power of Attorney for wife’s property
• Advance Health Care Directive with Living Will and *HIPAA Release for husband
• Advance Health Care Directive with Living Will and *HIPAA Release for wife

*Authorization for release of health information insurance


All Insurance policies:

Life, Medical, Long-Term Care, Home Owner’s, and Personal Property Insurance (if separate from the Homeowner’s Policy).

• The amount of coverage
• The issuing company
• Policy number
• Beneficiaries
• Agent’s name and phone number
• Premium amount and due date (note: it’s vital that insurance premiums are up to date and paid on time - if a payment is late, a policy may be cancelled)
• What does the policy pay for, and for how long?
• How long is the waiting period on the long-term care insurance?
• What conditions must be present before the longterm care policy can be activated?

Important Records and Documents

• Marriage license
• Birth certificates for parents and each child
• Title papers for house and other property
• Ownership papers for vehicles (registration, pink slip)
• Social security numbers
• Military discharge papers (veteran’s funeral benefits may be available)
• Naturalization and citizenship documents (if applicable)
• Adoption records
• Contracts and leases (current and completed installment and maintenance)
• Combination to safe (if you store papers in a fireproof safe, keep the combination in a separate place that is easily accessible)
• Location of Safety Deposit Box, and location of access key
• Funeral instructions (See details below)
• Cancelled checks for at least three years (keep some cancelled checks and papers forever: house purchase; jewelry appraisal/ownership statements; brokerage statements, etc.)
• Tax records and returns for previous 5 years.
• Dividend and interest statements.
• Financial information
• Banking accounts
• Brokerage accounts
• Name and location of broker(s)
• Account numbers for each account
• Stocks or bonds held at locations outside brokerage house (safety deposit box, home safe,
• Retirement asset accounts (ie. IRA, Keogh )
• Other real estate information (amount of mortgages, equity to date,market value)
• Art (appraised value of antiques, coins, paintings, jewelry, etc.)
• IOUs – money owed to your family (all of these should be secured by a note)

Payment Amounts and Due Dates of:
• All mortgages (total loan, amount and due date, grace period and penalty for late payment)
• Taxes (income, property, business, land – anything for which you receive a tax bill)
• Outstanding loans (bank, car, boat, credit cards, Installment amount, due date)

Medical Records
• Names and phone number of doctors
• Birth dates (often medical records and insurance information are cataloged according to birth date. This can improve communication in an emergency or a crisis)
• List of allergies (vital if one of your parents is allergic to medication — penicillin, for example)
• Advance directives (this should be part of the estate plan which designates a durable power of attorney for medical decisions if a person is incapacitated)
• Major medical problems (this includes such conditions as diabetes or heart disease)
• List of medications, vitamins and herbal supplements
• Religious beliefs (this is particularly important in case blood transfusions are needed)
• Prior surgeries and major medical procedures (list past medical procedures including implanted medical devices such as pacemakers)
• Lifestyle information (alcohol or tobacco use)

Funeral Instructions
• Selection of funeral home
• Preference for burial or cremation
• What does cost of funeral cover? (Most people who think they have a funeral policy have only purchased a plot)
• Do the plans involve transporting the body to another state? (Find out how: there are laws covering transportation of bodies across state lines.)
• Is there a preference to style of funeral service? (Some people prefer a traditional service; others want a postponed memorial service.)
• Is the obituary written? (This can be written now. It is much easier now than at the time of death.

When Death Occurs

This checklist can prove very useful during an emergency. When my husband died, I couldn’t function or think clearly. My daughters followed this list and found it extremely helpful in remaining calm and organized.

• A doctor or coroner must declare a person dead and sign a death certificate.
• Get at least 20 embossed copies of the original death certificate. You can get these from the hospital, the health department or the funeral director. (You will need an original copy of a death certificate for every agency or company you will have to deal with. Copies are not accepted by anyone).
• If a parent dies in a hospital or nursing home, the staff usually knows what to do next. Let them be your guide.

If the death takes place at home, call or have someone else call the funeral home of your choice.

• Notify the lawyer, executor of the will and the insurance agent.
• Coordinate the supplying of food for the next few days.
• Decide on the time, place and kind of funeral service. (If you already have these in the binder, this part will be much easier).
• Make a list of family, friends, and colleagues to be informed. Decide who will inform them.
• Make lodging arrangements for out-of-town relatives and friends.
• Write obituary for appropriate newspapers. Know whom to ask for this.
• If flowers are not wanted, choose charity or hospital, etc. where gifts may be sent. Include this information in the obituary.
• Designate someone to pick up relatives who come in from out-of-town.
• Take extra home precautions against burglars, especially during funeral service. (Funeral arrangements are often published in local papers and burglars know no one is home).
• Designate a person to track flowers, gifts, and donations for later acknowledgment.

Buy the book Money, Love & Legacy

Build Your Own Legacy Binder
Build Your Own Legacy Binder


What Readers Say

Are there relationship issues which need to be cleared up? Have you shared your important values and truths with your loved ones? Are there any amends you would wish to make or forgiveness you would seek?  This is a book from which all can benefit as they contemplate their own deaths or the loss of those they love.  – Susan Gilbert  Read More...
Money Love & Legacy offers what most of us need and desire in our heart-of-hearts --- a gentle and extremely informative guidebook for dealing with two taboo subjects: money and death. The "Legacy Binder" (a step-by-step guide to assembling critical papers and information) alone is worth the price. – Marya Charles Alexander  Read More...  
Helga Hayse takes emotionally charged, difficult topics between parents, children and family members, and provides wise and relevant advice on why it's so important to talk about them.  Grudges, anger, perceived wrongs, misunderstandings, whatever, will all be trumped eventually by death and its finality.   – E. Charnes  Read More...
After buying and reading this book, my husband and I began a series of conversations with our elderly parent, our adult children and stepchildren and most important, with each other about how we want to plan our own futures. – Tira Meesue  Read More...
I have seen the harm caused by families not discussing these important matters before it is too late. Yesterday, I handed my three grown daughters each a copy, and I'm actually looking forward to our future conversations with this book as our guide. – Barbara Crary  Read More...