One of the most difficult things for a family to deal with after a loved one’s death is sorting through the endless paperwork needed to get the estate in order. Of course, this can be avoided by creating a “family file” containing all of your important documents needed in the event of your death. This file can make an already difficult process easier on your loved ones. Additionally, it is important that your documents are in order to ensure prompt payout on any life insurance policies on which your family may be depending.
The first step in assembling this file is to determine its contents. Generally, you will want copies of all of your financial and legal documents. Your financial adviser should be able to assist you in identifying files and developing a list specific to your situation, but the following paragraphs provide some general insight.
The most important document to keep a copy of is your will. Making sure that your loved ones know where this document is kept can be vital to ensuring that your final wishes are carried out. Your will should be kept at an attorney’s office or in a safety deposit box at a bank. Be sure that your family is aware of its location. You may also want to keep a letter of instruction in your home. This letter is not legally binding but oftentimes contains instructions for your funeral arrangements and the names and contact information for people listed in your will.
Documents establishing ownership of your financial assets, properties and any business interests should be kept in one location. Oftentimes family members are not aware of – or cannot remember – all of your assets. This could lead to them remaining unclaimed after your death. You also should ensure that any log-in information for online access to the accounts is kept on file, as well as information related to any safety deposit boxes you have. This information can help your family contact the bank in the event of your death. You might also want to keep a copy of your tax return with this information as it can help identify your assets in case any are missing.
In addition, you will want to keep copies of any life insurance policies you have, as well as documentation for your retirement accounts such as a pension or 401(k). This information should include the policy name, number and an agent to contact. If you have life insurance through your employer, make sure that it is included. Employer-provided policies are often overlooked.
Finally, you should keep your healthcare documentation in a file known to your family. For example, if you have a durable power of attorney – a document that lets your family make healthcare decisions on your behalf if you are incapacitated – this, too, should be in that file. You should also be sure to update this document as healthcare and privacy laws may render your documentation obsolete.
The professionals in our firm can help you identify the documentation you need to help your family in the event of a death. Call us today.