The “When I Die” Folder

Discussing how to deal with “life after death” with loved ones is not an easy topic for most families, much less planning for it. While it may sound morbid, creating a “When I Die” folder will save loved ones time and money because nothing is more time consuming and agonizing than sorting through a month’s worth of mail, rifling through cabinets to locate a last will and testament, and eventually to discovery three years later that there is a small property in Florida that no one knew about. While you may be thinking, I don’t have so much that should require a folder. Actually, the opposite is true. A “When I Die” folder is about much more than you’re your assets; it should include debts, funeral and final disposition arrangements, passwords, and letters to loved ones, amongst other things.

Putting together a “When I Die” folder will alleviate most of these headaches for family and loved ones. Recently, a TIME article discussed this idea and offered a few practical tips in creating such a folder. As probate lawyers, the following are our tips in what should be included in your “When I Die” folder in order to assist family and loved ones in the administration of an estate:

  • Vital Records. Have your important documents, or copies thereof, in order to prevent the need to request such documents from vital records. Such documents can include, birth certificate, marriage certificate, death certificate of a predeceased parent, spouse, or child. If you are concerned about storing sensitive documents in one place, an alternative would be to write down where each important document is located in a manner that the intended reader would be familiar with.
  • Real Property. Make a list of all the real property you own and include a copy of the deed, if possible.
  • Businesses. Make a list of any business that you own (all or part) and include copies of documents that detail the ownership rights, stock certificates, etc.
  • Financial Accounts. Make a list of all financial institutions in which you have an account. Include the name on the account, the account number, and the type of account (ex: checking, savings, investment, retirement). Including a copy of a statement would also help locate contact information as these institutions can change names over time. If you access the accounts online, include the access information.
  • Insurance Policies. Make a list of all life/death insurance plans. Again, including a copy of a statement would also help locate contact information. If you access the accounts online, include the access information.
  • Mortgage/Loan Notes. Make a list of all mortgage/loan notes and indicate what they are secured against. Include the name of the institution, loan number, original loan amount, and contact information for the servicer. If you access the accounts online, include the access information.
  • Household Bills. Make a list of all the household bills, including electricity, gas, water, trash, home phone, and cell phone. If you access the accounts online, include the access information.
  • Credit Cards. Make a list of all credit cards in your name, even if there is no running balance. Include the account number, the name on the card, an address to send bills, and a phone number for customer support. If you access the accounts online, include the access information.
  • Passwords. Make a list of social media account you wanted deleted or removed after your death. Include the password to each account for easier removal.
  • Important Documents. Lastly, your “When I Die” folder should contain your estate planning documents. This includes, an advanced healthcare directive, power of attorney, a copy of the last will and testament, and a copy of the trust agreement (if applicable). If you want to speak with an estate planning lawyer about making or updating your estate planning documents, contact JLGI for a free consultation.

Creating a “When I Die” folder does not have to happen all at once because it is essentially condensing a lifetime of documentation into a folder. As stated in the TIME article, creating such a folder is an act of love. If you need speak with an estate planning lawyer about planning for “When I Die”, contact JLGI for a free consultation.