Documents You Need Before You Die

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.

Last week, we discussed the additional steps one must take to ensure their assets are distributed according to his or her wishes upon his or her death. (Click here to read Your Will Isn’t Good Enough). This week, we’ll explore that concept further as we outline the documentation you need before you die.

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.

  •  The Essentials
    • 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)
  • Proof of Ownership
    • 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)
  • Banking
    • Make a list of all Accounts (along with login information and passwords)
    • Safety Deposit Boxes
  • Health-Care Confidential
    • Durable Healthcare Power of Attorney form
    • A Living Will
  • Life Insurance & Retirement Accounts
    • Copies of Life Insurance Policies
    • List of Retirement Plans
      • Pensions, Annuities, IRAs, and 401(k)s
  • Marriage & Divorce
    • 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, 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).

Read the full article: The 25 Documents You Need Before You Die

  1. Chaudhuri, Saabira. (2011, July 1). The 25 Documents You Need Before You Die. The Wall Street Journal. Retrieved July 4, 2011.
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