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The new teaching assistant seemed a little withdrawn although not unfriendly. Our paths didn't often overlap, but one afternoon I found her sitting in the teachers lounge. As I made friendly chitchat she gradually shared that her husband of several years had suddenly and tragically died just a few months earlier. There had been no warning. One day he just complained of a headache and died.

Several days before his death, she happened to ask her husband for his email password. That led to a conversation in which he wrote down all the confidential passwords to his online accounts. After his death just days later, she told me, she was profoundly grateful for the passwords that gave her ready access to information that helped her settle issues about his estate. "Perhaps the timing," she said 'had been a foreshadow."

And then she said this to me: "Do a favor to your wife, and don't wait to share this information. You never know when it may be too late."

Her sad and cautionary tale affected me deeply. Within days I began compiling an extensive list of the confidential contents of my computer, which I jokingly refer to as my "second brain." I created an encrypted file of all of my email passwords, bank account information, insurance policies, medical records, utility accounts, even my Paypal, Twitter and Facebook login information. I then sat my wife down and showed her exactly where this file was and what the master password was to access this information.

I had named this file, "If I die."


"IF you die?" she teased me. "Do you have other plans?"

Chastened, I then changed the name of the file to "WHEN I die."

Since then my wife and I have consulted an estate attorney who has drawn up a huge pile of documents for us -- trusts, wills, health directives. But somehow, we haven't really made the time to review or sign them. Perhaps that is only natural. But the words of that teaching assistant still haunt me: "You never know when it may be too late."

With a Perspective, I'm Daniel Kohn.

Daniel Kohn is a rabbi and teaches at Contra Costa Jewish Day School in Lafayette.