Organizing Documents in Case You Die

Today I attended a funeral of a friend.  It was a very sad day for all of us, but it reminded me that organizing isn’t just about the stuff we live with, but it’s also about the things in our death. And since we will all die one day, I thought we should talk about this.

I know.  This is not the most fun topic to talk about, but for those of us with kids, it’s imperative that you have a plan and  have all your important papers organized.

As I have said many times before, every family should have a fire safe box and I have listed what should go in it below.

  • Passports
  • Birth Certificates
  • Marriage Certificates
  • Divorce Decrees and Custody paperwork
  • Social Security cards
  • Checkbook
  • Homeowners/Rental policies
  • Car Insurance Policy
  • Medical Insurance papers and copies of cards
  • Copy of drivers licenses and military IDs
  • Any military discharge information (DD214)
  • Cash-you decide how much your family would need for 2-7 days
  • Wills
  • Power of Attorneys
  • A Master list of major accounts and their passwords/pins (banking, money markets, CDs, stocks, etc)
  • A CD copy of computer information; back up file
  • A CD or flash drive with pictures from computer
  • Appraisals of jewelry, antique furniture, or valuables
  • Deeds of auto, boat, homes, RV’s
  • Irreplaceable memorabilia; letters, jewelry, pictures, etc

The question I ask clients all the time is: In the event of your death, could your family find the insurance, medical, and financial information that they will need?

If your important paperwork is scattered in various places or unknown to even you, make this a priority to find it and put it in your fire box or emergency file.

Several years ago we drafted a letter and had it notarized so that in the event of both my death and my husbands death, it was made known who was to take the kids and all the contact information.  We also made sure these people were the secondary beneficiaries of our life insurance.  Obviously we love and trust these particular people and know that they would take care of our kids and money with integrity.  But, even more solid is a Will and every family should  have one.

I found a great article from a law firm titled “Documents Parents of Minor Children Should Have in Place”.

Next, let’s talk about passwords and account information.  Start gathering all these and write them up in an Excel spreadsheet or Google Doc.  There are many, many apps and programs that you can use to store this information, but to keep it simple, get them all on one sheet and place in your fire safe box.  Eric Dewey has created the Big Book of Everything.  It is an extensive worksheet about your life.  It has places for you to fill out every detail I am talking about here, but it’s awesome and it’s free.

Finally,  have a meeting with another adult to let them know your plan in case of your death.  When my husband and I recently traveled to Jamaica together, we gave our friend an envelope with the Will, notarized letter, insurance information, passport copies, and who to contact if something happened to us.  With the New Year just starting, it’s the perfect time to get these affairs in place and it jump starts you on your road to de-cluttering the paperwork!

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  1. Kris Lansing says

    This is the best advise! After dealing with 2 deaths in 6 years, I would never want my kids to deal with everything I had to. Great job Amy!

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