Has your spouse or a family member ever said to you, “What do I do when you’re gone? Who do I call? Where do I find all the family’s information? How do I take care of things?”
I know my wife has posed such questions to me. Making sure your loved ones know the answers to these questions is part of keeping your “house in order.”
In many families, there is one person who knows all the key household information and keeps track of account numbers and passwords, insurance information, tax returns, key advisors, contact information for friends and extended family, when bills are due, and even which companies to call for home repairs.
Consider working through a “legacy list,” which helps you gather everything your family would need to know if something were to happen to you. The items can be gathered as a computer file, in notebooks (my preference) or in a file drawer.
What to Include in Your Legacy List
- Content Guide: A simple list explaining the documents you’ve collected.
- Contact Information: Phone number or email address for key advisors such as your attorney, executor/trustee, financial and/or investment advisor, life insurance agent, certified public accountant and tax preparer.
- Estate Plans: All information pertaining to your will or trust, including the executor/trustee, powers of attorney, letters to your loved ones, and funeral instructions such as an outline of your memorial wishes.
- Financial information: All the necessary information for bank accounts, credit cards and loans.
- Insurance Policies: Paperwork for all health, car, disability and term life insurance, or other forms of insurance.
- Passwords: Include all passwords, combinations, usernames and PIN numbers.
- Legal Documents: Deeds/titles, birth certificates and social security cards.
- Monthly Household Expenses: A detailed budget will help your family continue household operations. Include how the expense is paid, necessary logins and passwords.
- Tax returns: Assemble all of your tax records in case your estate is audited.
- Medical Contacts: Contact information for each family member’s doctors, dentist, optometrist and other health care providers.
- Maintenance Information: Include maintenance schedules and information on which vendors to contact for each service (e.g., auto mechanic, heating and cooling repair company).
When documents on your legacy list change, be sure to update the copy in your drawer, computer file or notebook. It’s a good idea to photocopy each document and place it in a safe deposit box in case of a fire. Make sure your loved ones have access to the safe deposit box information.
While it takes time to pull together and organize your documents in a way that is easy for your family to access, the peace of mind you will bring your loved ones is more than worth the effort, especially during those days and months following your passing.
Note from Bill: I appreciate Michael’s great practical post. Picking up on one item mentioned in his list, learn how to include a legacy letter to your loved ones with your estate documents by downloading my Guide to Purposeful Language.
Photo by Esther Ann on Unsplash
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Published February 12, 2020
Topics: Estate Planning