Leave a List
Your “time” may be far off but it’s never too early to arrange your paperwork and keep it in a logical location. It will be helpful if you organize your papers and documents in a way that your survivors can find them.
Write it down. This is the most helpful way to organize your documents. It helps you see what you have and where you have it, and it is a huge help to those who are trying to figure out your estate.
Make a will. It is sad how many people die without a will—and the courts are left to determine your wishes. Particularly if you have children, you need a will and designate the legal guardian for your children.
Seek advice. Don’t try to create a will, estate plan or trust on your own. Laws change quickly regarding taxes on estate and trusts, so get expert advice from estate planners, lawyers and accountants.
Prepare an estate checklist. Include an itemization of where to find all the papers. Update this information every few years:
- Your will/trust is located at…
- Attorney name and contact number
- Financial advisor name and number
- Clergy name and number
- Instruction upon death (whom to call, funeral home, what to do)
- List of heirs (names, numbers, relationships)
- Trusts (type, name of trustees, investment advisor)
- Real estate owned (addresses, type, title, mortgage due, bank where mortgage is owed)
- Bank accounts (list banks & account numbers)
- Life insurance policies (name of company, policy number, type of policy, name of insured, death benefit of each policy, cash value, agent name and number)
- Investments owned (type, company name, account number, phone number)
- IRAs & pensions (type, name of plan, account number, agent, phone number)
- Deeds (location of papers)
- Mortgages (location of papers, mortgage holder, phone number)
- Military service (branch of service, dates, rank, status, pensions earned, death benefits)
- Citizenship/Visa papers (location, whom to contact, phone number)
- List of all debts (credit cards, bank & personal loans, loans owed to family and friends, car loans, mortgages, loans against pensions or life insurance. Include account number of each, location of papers, list of normal payments on each loan. Mention if there is any credit insurance on the loan.)
- Debts owed to you (names of people who owe you money. Phone number of each, amount of debt and location of papers.)
- Other documents list (location of auto titles, bank statements, tax returns, birth certificates, marriage certificates, divorce papers, passport, Social Security records, pension records, insurance policies, military records, Veterans Administration records, etc.)
- My wallet (photocopy the contents of your wallet, including any organ donation permission)
- Funeral instructions