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Dear Abby: Worried about lack of paper trail

Dear Abby: My problem concerns my children and others who may have to deal with my finances or estate if I become ill or die.

I constantly get requests from credit card companies and other businesses, such as utilities, urging me to “go paperless.” “Save a tree … save a forest!” While I’m sympathetic, I worry that if I were to get sick and no paper bills would arrive in my mailbox, my children wouldn’t know that the bills need to be paid. (They have my durable power of attorney.) If everything arrives online, they would have no access to that information. Bills and late fees would accumulate, and no one at our end would be the wiser.

This is why I resist. I pay many of my bills online, but I also receive paper documents. I know that many companies and credit card issuers are unsympathetic about reducing or eliminating late fees, regardless of the situation. I don’t trust them to waive these fees – even if I’m desperately ill or dead. I don’t know how to “go paperless” and keep my children informed at the same time. Abby, your column could create a national conversation on this issue.

– Deborah in St. Cloud, Minn.

Dear Deborah: Before you go paperless, make a list of all of your accounts and usernames and passwords. There is software that allows people to upload their account information into so-called “digital vaults” for storage. Alternatively, the information could be written down and placed with your health care and financial powers of attorney.

To make certain that everything goes smoothly if you become incapacitated, or in the event of your death, give a list of your current digital information to someone you trust, let people know who has that information, and leave instructions on how you want things handled.

Pregnancy secret is blared

Dear Abby: Last spring, my husband and I found out we’re pregnant with our first child. We were thrilled, of course, but out of caution, we decided not to tell anyone outside our immediate family for a few weeks.

I am a teacher at a large school, and I decided to confide in my teaching assistant so she would understand if I seemed tired or wasn’t feeling well. She was excited. Within five minutes of my telling her, she had literally shouted the news to several other staff members. I asked her to please stop and, in particular, not to tell the students. The next day, there was a large banner hanging over my classroom door that read “BUN IN THE OVEN!” I was mortified and furious.

She thinks that miscarriages won’t happen if you think positive and that I’m just being negative. She is otherwise an excellent assistant. How do I deal with her refusal to remain quiet?

– Assisted by a Blabbermouth

Dear Assisted: Now that you know you cannot share anything in confidence with your assistant, make a mental note to not make that mistake again. There’s a saying, “Once two people know a secret, it is no longer a secret.” Because she’s an excellent assistant, “deal” with her by telling her only what you would want broadcast over the public-address system.

Dear Abby is written by Abigail Van Buren and was founded by her mother, Pauline Phillips. Write to Dear Abby at DearAbby.com or P.O. Box 69440, Los Angeles, CA 60069.