How to Create an In-Case-of-Emergency Document

If you were hit by a bus today or were otherwise incapacitated, would your loved ones be able to quickly locate your important information or know how to handle your affairs? Many of us have a great handle on our finances, but our record keeping systems might not be obvious to family members or friends who might need immediate access to them in times of emergency. Here's a step-by-step guide to organizing your vital information so it can be conveniently and safely accessed when needed.

It is a relatively simple exercise, but creating a file or folder labeled “In Case of Emergency” (ICE), which contains all this pertinent information is of vital importance in ensuring your family has as easy a process as possible to follow in wrapping up your estate and respecting your wishes after your death. The following steps will guide you in preparing your own ICE file for when the eventuality arises.

It sounds simple, and it is, but what is the goal? To create a MASTER file containing all the information required to settle your estate and any wishes regarding your funeral. The easiest way to achieve this is to create a spreadsheet with all this information and to save it to the cloud – in either Drop box or Google Drive or a similar location and to share access with family, your executor and possibly a trustworthy friend.

The attached links will allow you to download a template (in PDF or XLS formats) for an ICE file, which can be modified, but contains various tabs for the kind of information you need to capture.

The most important rule to remember is to make sure you regularly update the file with any changes to the information.

Step 1: – Keep important original documents safe!

The first thing to do is to gather up all your important original documents.  These include:

  • Birth certificate
  • Passport
  • Vehicle registration papers
  • Title dead (if you own your property outright)
  • Share certificates
  • Marriage certificate and contract
  • Any other official, hard-to-replace documents –
  • Signed and witnessed last will and testament.

You should scan all of these documents and save them to the shared folder where you will be storing your ICE file. The originals should then be stored in either a fireproof safe or safety deposit box.
Step 2: Fill in the information in your ICE File

Next, go through the template and fill in all the necessary information, including:

  • Contact information: Both yours and your emergency contacts’ information. This includes contact information for your closest relatives, your will executor(s), and employers.
  • Will and medical directives: Add a copy of your will/living trust as well as any medical directives or instructions relating to care and prolonging of life via extraordinary measures – i.e. life support when there is no possibility of a positive recovery.
  • Insurance: Homeowners, Car, medical aid, life, disability, funeral cover and other insurance policy info and contact details for your and make sure you include the policy numbers
  • Financial accounts: Bank accounts, investment information, credit card, loan accounts, including institution names, phone numbers and account numbers
  • Health records: Immunization records, any allergies you may have, dietary restrictions, chronic medications, medical/surgical treatments, any medical/ health related information that might be needed to be shared.
  • Pet information: Description of each pet, vet contact information, and any important medical notes – this is important in the event that new homes need to be found for your pets, so that the new owners will have this information.
  • Physical Assets: Car information, home purchase papers/deeds, and other home inventory items, preferably with the purchase amount and date.

Step 3: Share the information with those that will need it.

  • Save the ICE File and scanned documents to the cloud, choose a tool that allows you to share access with others, such as Drop box or Google Drive. Select the people outside of your family and executor or legal representative carefully. They should be trustworthy and beyond reproach.

Step 4: Keep your information updated!

  • Set a yearly calendar reminder to review the information stored in your ICE folder and to make any changes, but also try be diligent in making important updates as they occur.

This Master Information Kit is a simplified version for the most essential information. Whichever organizing method you choose, having all your vital information in one easily accessible place can be comforting, for both you and your loved ones.