Talking about and planning for death is never easy, but we must do it. When we plan for death, we make everything easier and alleviate any stress or headaches for our family and loved ones. An essential part of planning ahead is ensuring our loved ones know how to access our estate planning documents and any other important documents they may need.
An easy way to compile everything your loved ones may need when you pass away is by assembling a 'death' or 'when I die' folder. We hope that your loved ones will not need to access it for a very long time, but having all of your information and documents together in one place will make a difficult time much easier.
Here's an essential list of documents that you will want to include in your death folder. Please note something may not apply to you:
Estate Planning Documents
Whether you have a Will or a Revocable Living Trust, you want to ensure that your original estate planning documents are easy for your loved ones to locate. Having quick access to the original documents will make the process of settling your estate much smoother for everyone.
Assembling your estate planning documents for your death folder is also a great time to check and see if your estate plan still has the information you want it to have. Are the listed beneficiaries still the ones you want to be included? Or would you like to update your beneficiaries? It's important to keep your estate plan up-to-date to carry out your wishes when you pass away.
Insurance Policy Information
If you have any type of life insurance policy, you will want to include the policy information, that way the company gets the documentation they need to pay out the policy per your wishes. Otherwise, your loved ones may not even know a policy exists. There is not one easy place to check for a life insurance policy since there are an endless number of carriers, so having the documentation in an easy-to-locate place will ensure your wishes are followed.
When you gather this information, ensure that your beneficiary information is up-to-date. Your most recent beneficiary binds the carrier, so if it is no longer someone you want to be paid, but you haven't gotten around to changing it, that person would still be the policy recipient. For example, if you were previously married and had your ex-spouse listed as your beneficiary but never got around to changing it, your ex-spouse would still be the beneficiary.
You will want to include information for all of your financial accounts. This could include your general checking account but also something like a brokerage account. It is important to include all financial institutions you have accounts with, including account numbers and login information if you have an online account. While your loved ones can still access your accounts without the online login information, having those logins makes for a quicker process. As you may change your passwords over the years, updating those in your death folder each time you change them is important.
The last thing anyone wants to think about their loved ones having to deal with after they pass away is bills, but they still come! Assembling the information for utilities and other service providers will make paying the final bills much easier for your loved ones. Many utility and service providers have switched to paperless billing only, so you do not want to rely on only the bills coming through the mail.
Important Contact Information
If there is anyone you want contacted upon your passing, include it in your death folder. This may include professionals like an attorney or financial advisor, but this may also include friends out of town that you just want to be notified of your passing.
Other Important Documents
Consider including certain documents like your birth certificate, marriage certificate, passport, or letters to loved ones if you have those. If you have any titles or deeds for property, include those as well. Having these documents in one place makes it so that your loved ones do not need to request them and wait for copies to arrive.
Locations for Other Assets or Documents
Do you have a safety deposit box somewhere? If so, you want to ensure that you include information on your safety deposit box in your death folder. Otherwise, your loved ones may not even know you have one!
If there are any documents your loved ones may need access to but you did not want to include in your death folder for whatever reason, be sure you include information on what those documents are and where your loved ones can find them.
What If I Don't Have Estate Planning Documents?
At Carolina Family Estate Planning, we help families build better lives by planning for a secure future. Our team takes an all-inclusive approach to our client's estate planning. We focus on building relationships with our clients, offering sound legal advice and expertise to help you make the best decisions for your family.
Contact us at Carolina Family Estate Planning at 919-899-2606 in Cary, North Carolina, or schedule your consultation online, to begin the estate planning process with one of our experienced attorneys today.
Are you still doing your research? Check out our free guide: Estate Planning Pitfalls.