While it’s becoming repetitive, I can’t stress it enough (especially in my profession), a good offense of preparedness is your best defense against the unknowns in life.
Saabira Chaudhuri’s Wall Street Journal article, “The 25 Documents You Need Before You Die
,” (Weekend Investor, July 1, 2011) outlines the following items as must-haves prior to death or incapacitation.
Proof of ownership
- An original will on file
- A copy of your revocable trust
- A signed “letter of instruction” (should include names and contact information of attorneys and other advisors)
- Houses, land, cemetery plots, stock certificates, savings bonds, partnership or corporations agreements, mortgage accounts, etc.
- Detailed information on loans that you made to others
- The most recent three years of tax returns (a great snapshot of what investments heirs should be looking for)
Health care confidential
- Make a list of all accounts (along with login information and passwords)
- Safety deposit boxes
Life insurance and retirement accounts
- Durable health care power of attorney form
- A living will
Marriage and divorce
- Copies of life insurance policies
- List of retirement plans
- Pensions, Annuities, IRAs and 401(k)s
- Marriage certificate
- Divorce judgment and decree
- Copy of the most recent child support payment order
- Copies of life insurance policies that benefit your children
- A copy of the “qualified domestic relations order”
Note that it’s useless to have spent the time compiling the above documents unless your loved ones know of their existence. Therefore, make sure that your heirs know where to look for your important paperwork in the event you’re not around to ask.
Should you at any time need to amend any of the information, be sure the most current copies and information are on file. (An annual review of your compilation could prove most helpful).