Creating an In Case of Death File

by TTMK on March 11, 2013 · 10 comments

Okay, I know that this isn’t the most uplifting or exciting title to a blog post!  Most of us want to get the most out of the precious life we have, not plan for the time afterward.  Totally understandable. I get it, and I’m with you on that 100%.

Nevertheless, the vast majority of us have people that we either care a lot about, are taking care of, or both.  In such cases, what we do with our affairs and how we get things organized can help those people in the event we unexpectedly pass.  Of course, in the long run, this isn’t unexpected but a certainty.

Anyway, I’ve given a little bit of thought to what would be useful to have in an “In Case of Death File“, and have come up with a few things.  Here they are, as a work in-progress list:

Will

In the event of early passing, who would want assets to be dispersed in a way that isn’t in accordance with your exact wishes?  Instead of leaving distribution to other people or rules you may or may not agree with, it seems to be a good idea to have a will.  If you have kids, you will absolutely want them to be taken care of.

Power of Attorney

This may actually be something needed right before death, in the event of incapacitation preceding death.  In the event someone isn’t able to make decisions for themselves, an other trusted person can be authorized to make decisions on the former’s behalf.  Power of Attorney generally involves a written authorization to do so.

Insurance Policies

In the event of death, life insurance proceeds could be there to help out specifically designated beneficiaries.  It’s a good idea to keep insurance information handy to facilitate the proper handling of such matters during a difficult time.

Credit Cards

All credit card information, including account numbers and contact information, should be a part of this file one would think.

Loans

If loans are outstanding, and payments aren’t made, consequences can’t be good, right?  It’s good to keep a list of any loans and debts that will need to be taken care of.  It would be a shame to have unexpected issues arise for loved ones in relation to a person’s debts.

Account Information

This could be brokerage accounts, bank accounts, or any other accounts where assets are held.  It’s important to know where the accounts are, what the account numbers are, and any other relevant information that would be needed to properly handle the accounting for funds.

Keys and Titles

Copies of keys to home, car, safe deposit box, etc – can all be labeled.

List of Miscellaneous Valuables

This could range from jewelery, to family heirlooms, all the way to other things such as birth/marriage certificates and the like.

My Questions for You

I’m sure my list is just a start, and there are plenty of other additions that can be made – do you have any to add?

Do you feel like you keep things organized enough today?

How are you handling this type of file?

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{ 10 comments… read them below or add one }

AverageJoe March 12, 2013 at 6:23 am

I think you nailed it! It’s funny….I would preach this stuff every day when I was an advisor, so you’d think mine would all be in a central location and ready to go like I told me clients, right? Yeah…..time to get working on that.

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TTMK March 12, 2013 at 9:54 pm

It’s not something that most of us want to think about, but we all should!

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Penny March 20, 2013 at 11:30 am

I have a small fire safe with this info and docs, but I wonder where it should be stored, so as it doesn’t get stolen?

Also: where are free places to get simple wills and power of attn’y and healthcare directive type docs for the State of Minnesota?

My goal is to make completing these docs a “Date Night” activity for the hubby and I, including the oft-required notarization.

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TTMK March 20, 2013 at 1:41 pm

Penny – I like that idea of completing those docs as a “together” activity. Not exciting stuff, but could be very important. As for docs, I’d do a google search to find out.

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Penny March 20, 2013 at 1:49 pm

I’ll add the caveat that any Date Night that consists of paperwork should also include a carrot, IMO, like a nice bottle of wine or glass of Guiness!

As to Googling the docs; I am leery of that—as far as getting inaccurate/useless docs to complete. Does anyone know how much one should budget to get the following simple docs produced: a simple will, a power of attn’y doc, and a healthcare directive? After all, if you slip up on these papers, you’re not doing anyone any favors.

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Jo Prostko March 21, 2013 at 4:01 am

Good advice. I would add a list of ALL passwords to this collection of important information.

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Terry March 21, 2013 at 11:06 am

Good advice. I keep what I call my House Book. It’s just a notebook where I put all the above info plus more: business cards from my financial advisors, the HVAC co. I have a service contract with, a list of my closest friends with their phone numbers and email addresses, my doctor’s name and contact info, the locations of the breaker box and water valve, my insurance member numbers, my attorney’s contact info – anything I could think of that *I* would need if I had to step into a loved one’s house and take over upon their demise. (I’ve been through this with my late husband, unfortunately.) About once a year I go through and update what needs it. Several times a year I remind my son of it, since he’s the one who would be using it. I’ve already got him as my POA and Medical POA, and my sole heir, and he’s signed all the signature cards on my credit union accounts, and now I am saving up some cash to put in my home safe so if he has to come here (from halfway across the country) in a hurry, he’ll have plenty of cash if he needs it. As for keys to the house, my safety deposit box, the car; I keep them in a particular place and include that location in my reminders to my son. If I had more than one child I’d have to figure out how to distribute the responsibilities and benefits accordingly. If I didn’t know he’s got a heart of gold, I might arrange things differently – through my attorney, for example. One needs to be realistic about the possible intent of one’s heirs (I read a lot of mystery novels, LOL!)

Thanks for the reminder to update my House Book – time to do it again!

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Pat March 21, 2013 at 4:37 pm

NOLO has a useful book called “Get It Together” (probably available at your local public library: that’s where I got mine. Liked it so much I bought a copy). It provides templates for a complete “In Case Of” book and brought up all kinds of issues I’d not thought of as well as providing an excellent discussion on how/where to keep sensitive information.

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Penny March 22, 2013 at 8:01 am

Thanks for the suggestion, Pat!

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Eileen March 21, 2013 at 8:21 pm

Good article. Very important for loved ones who are left to be spared the overwhelm of finding important documents. Two additional things I have done:
Pre subscribed and paid for a cremation service. One telephone call and they take care of everything;
The other, is made a list of valuable items that my kids might otherwise throw in the Goodwill box. Artwork has information taped to the back. (The artist, the ascertainable value, when and where it was obtained). Also, a list of antiques and family heirlooms, some of which my boys will consider junk. I don’t care if they keep and treasure it, but I want them to know there may be some financial value to the items.
Thanks for this valuable forethought.

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