The Wall Street Journal listed 25 documents you need before you die.1
Their subheading was “Design your death dossier soon – or you could be setting up your heirs for frustration and financial pain.”
They are right. If you don’t take the time to create a plan for your future and organize your documents, you are leaving a mess for your family. It may be impossible for the people you rely upon to help you. The distribution of your estate may be different than what you want because you may have failed to coordinate beneficiary designations on retirement accounts and life insurance with your total plan.
So what are those 25 documents that you should organize and put in one location so they are easy to find? I will list them below and add a few items they forgot.
- Birth Certificate
- Marriage License
- Divorce papers
- Military Discharge Papers
- Death Certificates for other immediate family members (spouse, parents, children)
- Personal and Family Medical History
- Durable Health Care Power of Attorney
- Living Will
- Physician’s Order for Scope of Treatment (POST)
- List of Doctors and Prescription Drugs
Proof of Ownership:
- Housing, land and cemetery deeds
- Mortgage Papers
- Proof of loans made and debts owed
- Vehicle titles
- Stock certificates, savings bonds and brokerage accounts
- Partnership and corporate operating agreements
- Tax returns
Life Insurance/Retirement Accounts:
- Life insurance policies
- Individual Retirement Accounts
- 401(k) accounts
- Pension documents
- Annuity contracts
- List of bank accounts
- List of all user names and passwords
- List of safe deposit boxes and keys
Estate Planning Documents:
- Financial Power of Attorney
- Funeral Plan
- Pet Care Instructions
- List of who receives your “stuff”, e.g., ring and gun
So get a box and start putting all these papers in that box. If you put in copies, mark on the copy to indicate where the originals are located.
Does this seem too much to do? Well, think about the people you care for and think about covering your back. If you want your life to go as well as possible, even during the bad days, you have to do your part.
So take 30-60 minutes and gather up these documents. Good for you if you do what I suggest!
P.S. The total documents is 32 – not 25.
1“The 25 Documents You Need Before You Die. The Wall Street Journal, July 2, 2011, page B7.