Planning for what happens after your death is an important part of personal and financial responsibility.
Consider consulting with a financial adviser to ensure that your estate plan is comprehensive and up to date according to your specific circumstances and applicable laws. Also helpful is our Important Life Documents Handbook to help you gather and store all of your important information.
Here is a list of documents and information you should consider having in place to make the process smoother for your loved ones:
- Will: A last will and testament is a legal document that specifies how you want your assets and property to be distributed after your death. It can also name a guardian for your minor children, if applicable. Consult with an attorney to create a will that complies with your local laws.
- Living Will: A living will, or advance healthcare directive, outlines your medical preferences in case you become unable to make decisions about your own healthcare. It may include your wishes regarding life support, organ donation, and other medical treatments.
- Power of Attorney: A power of attorney document designates someone to make financial or legal decisions on your behalf if you become incapacitated. There are different types of powers of attorney, including general, limited, and durable powers of attorney.
- Healthcare Proxy: This document appoints someone to make medical decisions on your behalf if you are unable to do so. It is often used in conjunction with a living will.
- Beneficiary Designations: Ensure that your beneficiary designations on life insurance policies, retirement accounts (e.g., 401(k), IRA), and other financial accounts are up to date. These designations typically override your will, so it's crucial to keep them current.
- Insurance Policies: Make sure your loved ones know about your life insurance policies and where to find the policy documents. Life insurance can provide financial support to your beneficiaries after your death.
- List of Accounts: Create a list of all your financial accounts, including bank accounts, investment accounts, and credit card accounts. Include the account numbers, institution names, and contact information. Store this list in a secure place, and let a trusted person know where it is.
- Digital Asset Information: Provide instructions on how to access your digital assets, such as email accounts, social media profiles, and online banking. Store usernames and passwords in a secure manner, such as a password manager, and give access to a trusted person.
- Debt Information: Document any outstanding debts, loans, mortgages, or lines of credit you have. Specify how these should be handled after your death.
- Funeral and Burial Preferences: If you have specific preferences for your funeral or memorial service, burial, cremation, or organ donation, make them known in writing.
- Trust Documents: If you have set up a trust as part of your estate plan, ensure that your trustee and beneficiaries have copies of the trust documents and understand their roles.
- Contact List: Compile a list of important contacts, including family members, friends, attorney, financial advisor, and accountant. This list can be helpful for your executor or family members to notify people after your passing.
- Personal Letters: Consider writing personal letters to your loved ones, expressing your thoughts, feelings, and wishes. These can be a source of comfort for your family.
- Tax Records: Keep copies of your recent tax returns and related financial documents, as they may be needed for estate and inheritance tax purposes.
- Safe Deposit Box Information: If you have a safe deposit box, provide information about its location and the key or access details to a trusted individual.
- Legal Documents: Keep important legal documents, such as your birth certificate, marriage certificate, divorce decree, and any adoption records, in a secure place. These may be needed for legal proceedings after your death.
- Estate Plan Summary: Create a summary document that outlines your overall estate plan, including the location of key documents and the contact information for your attorney and financial advisor.
Once you've gathered these documents and information, store them in a secure and easily accessible place. It's also important to communicate with your trusted family members or executor about the location of these documents and your wishes.
This is a lot of information and it can be overwhelming. Need help getting started? Purchase our Important Life Documents Handbook for a step-by-step guide to gathering and assembling your information.